Like many young boys, Paul McGhee had his heart set on becoming a professional football player. He competed in high school and though he was good, by his senior year he realized that going any further just wasn't in the cards for him.
“I had to think about what I wanted to do outside of football for the rest of my life. I had to think about what kind of job I wanted to do and how it aligned with my passion. Some people just take a job because that’s what’s going to pay the bills. I didn't want that,” said McGhee. I have this thing where I must be different. I've never wanted to be average.
“I decided on mechanical engineering. They are jacks-of-all-trades. As far as engineering goes, we can do a bit of everything. Most people think of cars and planes, but mechanical engineering also extends into the medical field.”
No one would describe him as average. As a third-year mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, McGhee is conducting research that may become vitally important to many patients around the country and beyond.
“I’m currently doing fatigue testing of biodegradable (body) implant materials. Basically, we want to know how long a material can last under a certain load or amount of stress,” said McGhee.
“For example, sometimes people have to get hip implants. Within the body, we exert a certain amount of stress or load on the implant material. Many things have to be considered. If the material is too strong, bones won’t heal properly. Environment is important as well. Even blood and plasma could potentially corrode the material.”
While McGhee is intimately knowledgeable of the environmental factors, the passionate engineer in him is more focused on solving the problems of maintaining the mechanical integrity of the stuff the implants are made of.
“With my research, I’m trying to determine the performance of the material and trying to find ways to mechanically correct any type of defect,” he adds. “There are a lot of questions that need to be solved. This research could potentially help someone down the road, in their hip, for example. It’s still a new field, but I feel like I can contribute and maybe solve some of those problems.”
Although McGhee is staunchly dedicated to his education and research, he’s quick to note that he’s just as committed to maintaining balance. In other words, he’s plays just as hard as he works.
“I’m not the average technical scientist. When you are too technical, people can’t get with you, he said. “I’m like a swiss army knife. I’m handy and I can interact regardless of the environment I’m in.”
“I’m not as serious as people would think. I’m very laid back and like to joke. Life is better when you enjoy it rather than running through it. I’m just serious when it’s time to get serious.”
No matter the situation, McGhee says he knows he is well prepared for life beyond campus. He thanks North Carolina A&T State University for that.
“I learned how to do things without all the resources,” he says. “We don’t always get funded like MIT or Chapel Hill, but we use what we have to make it work, develop high quality research and be highly competitive.”