Smart Material Solutions, Inc. (SMS) is a NC S-corporation and NC State startup company that is backed by the National Science Foundation to develop “nanocoining” – an enabling technology to manufacture large-scale anti-reflective and self-cleaning surfaces at low cost. SMS has the exclusive license to the patented process from NC State, and the company is currently leading a 2-year SBIR Phase II development and commercialization effort from its custom 1800 square foot off-campus R&D facility.

Team Members

Stephen J. Furst, Dr. -Ing.
Founder and CEO


Dr. Stephen Furst is a mechanical engineer with extensive experience in precision engineering and smart materials research. He was born and raised in Goshen, NY, but came to North Carolina State as a student-athlete in 2003. Stephen graduated Summa cum Laude with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and MS in Mechanical Engineering while running track & field and cross country for the NC State Wolfpack.  In 2008, Stephen was the ACC Champion in both the 5k and the 10k, an All-American in the 5k, and was named the ACC’s male scholar athlete of the year for all sports. Concurrently, Stephen’s master’s work under the direction of Dr. Thomas Dow at the NC State Precision Engineering Center (PEC) forged the relationship that would later lead him to the Nanocoining technology.

Stephen began his PhD work in 2009 with Prof. Dr. -Ing. Stefan Seelecke at NC State, his emphasis on smart materials research.  In 2011, Dr. Seelecke left NC State for Saarland University in Germany, allowing Stephen the opportunity to continue his research abroad in Saarbruecken, Germany while still pursuing a professional running career and preparing for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Team Trials for the 5000 m and marathon.  Stephen defended his dissertation "Design, Fabrication, and Control Methods for Exploiting the Multifunctional Sensing and Actuation Capabilities of Shape Memory Alloy Wires" and was again awarded the highest distinction, Summa cum Laude.

After finishing school in 2012, Stephen began consulting with the PEC where he worked with students and faculty members on projects for the NIJ, NSF, NASA, and several companies before taking the nanocoining technology off the shelf at the PEC and writing a successful STTR Phase I proposal to the NSF

Stephen’s publications are available on Google Scholar.

Nichole C. Miller, PhD
Senior Research Scientist


Dr. Nichole Miller is a Raleigh native with experience performing research and developing products in a variety of fields including solar cells, batteries, semiconductors, polymer science, and nanotechnology. 

Nichole graduated at the top of her class at Carnegie Mellon University with a BS and MS in Materials Science and Engineering and was awarded an NSF Fellowship for PhD at Stanford University. She also completed a postdoctoral position at Bosch and internships at Ford, NASA, and Bose. Later, Nichole received the prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship to perform research at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, where she patented a world-record solar-cell technology and published the results in Nature Photonics.

Nichole returned to Raleigh in 2017 and joined Smart Material Solutions as the company’s Senior Research Scientist. She is involved with all aspects of the business, including engaging with customers, writing proposals, and painting the walls. Nichole leads the company’s efforts to create diamond dies using FIB machining and other nano-fabrication methods.

A complete list of Nichole’s publications is available on Google Scholar.

Timothy J. McDonald
Mechanical Engineer

Tim McDonald graduated Summa cum Laude with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and prestigious Legacy Scholarship from Texas A&M in 2015. During his undergraduate career, Tim was a research assistant for the Advanced Engine Research Lab. After graduating he worked for 2 years at L3 Technologies Mission Integration Division designing and analyzing aircraft components.

Tim moved to North Carolina in 2017 and immediately began work at Smart Material Solutions as a Mechanical Engineer focused on creating components and operating the company’s ultra-precision pilot system for creating nano-structured drum molds.