Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Nikki Gorrell

During World War II, soldiers used firing tables to aim their ground-based artillery at the enemy. But calculating the data for these tables could take several days. To speed up the process, the US Army brought in more than 100 women to handle the load. Their work was classified, so they were nicknamed the “Secret Rosies” after the famous WWII icon, Rosie the Riveter. Amazingly enough, they accomplished their work while still raising their families. One such family member was Nikki Gorrell, the granddaughter of Mildred Garvin Gorrell, a Secret Rosie.

Her grandmother taught Gorrell how to read, write and fueled her passion for math. Listening to the inspirational stories her grandmother told, Gorrell knew that she wanted to be an engineer, just like her grandmother. But what kind of engineer would be Gorrell’s decision all her own.

“Just like many other students, I had to discover ISE,” Gorrell recalled. As she toured colleges, she discovered that industrial and systems engineering (ISE) focused on improving the organization and structure of systems to make life easier and more efficient. “My family always thought it was funny how organized I am,” said Gorrell. “My mother would tell me about how I would help her reorganizer the pantry shelves and the bathroom supplies starting at the young age of 4.” Since organization and structure was an important core value of who she was, the decision to choose ISE was easy. The department at NC State was an obvious choice as it provided a wide range of skills to help Gorrell achieve her goals.

One of those goals is to turn her passion for horseback riding into a career. While riding her competition horse, Gorell noticed that his range of motion and flexibility were much better without equipment. It turned out that the saddle hindered her horse’s performance. But, high-end custom saddles can be very expensive. So, using the skills gained in ISE, Gorrell hopes to lower the sport’s cost so that more people can participate. “My hope is to reinvent the saddle,” She stated. “I want to create something that will bend and mold with the horse as they gain and lose weight, and I hope to create a saddle that is transferable to multiple horses.”

Like a multitasking Secret Rosie, Gorrell’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She is also an ISE Ambassador who loves to share her experiences. “I want to make sure that if there are others who love to be organized and have a mathematical skill set, then they know that there is a major out there for them,” she reflected. Sharing experiences and mentoring other students ranging from middle schoolers to college students, Gorrell greatly enjoys helping the community through this program. 

With the support of ISE professor Brandon McConnell, Gorrell has already checked off a huge achievement. She applied to the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship for STEM majors and received two offers, one being from The Research and Analytic Center (TRAC) for the US Army in Fort Leavenworth. After Completing the Accelerated Bachelor’s Master’s (ABM) program, she is headed to TRAC to work full time, undoubtedly to continue accomplishing incredible things like her grandmother.