Twenty-three-year-old industrial design student Nohemi Gonzalez was the first American identified as a victim of the horrific attacks on Paris on Friday. Gonzalez, a senior at Cal State Long Beach, was living in the city for the semester as an exchange student at the Strate School of Design. She was dining with fellow Cal State Long Beach students at a Paris restaurant Friday night when she was killed, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Gonzalez, who is described by friends and teachers as a talented and passionate student, was focusing her studies on product development and production within the industrial design department. She was also a teaching assistant and a shop technician.
For the fall semester of her senior year, Gonzalez and three other design students from Cal State Long Beach joined 500 international exchange students at Strate for a graduate-level industrial design program that required taking three courses in French. In the last post on her Facebook page, Gonzalez writes, “Learning a 3D modeling computer program in a language I don’t know is up there in the top 3 hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
Before traveling to Paris, Gonzalez had been part of a team that won second place in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge for inventing the Polli Snack, a 100% biodegradable trail mix container that doubles as an expandable planter. The snack pack, which comes with soil and seeds to plant after the snack is consumed, is meant to be sold in grocery and convenient stores in neighborhoods that are considered food deserts.
Friends and faculty at the university mourn the loss of a young woman they describe as smart, compassionate, and driven, and a leader and advisor to other students within the department. “Nohemi was a very gifted student,” Martin Herman, chairman of the design department, told the LA Times. “Her spirit and enthusiasm infused the department in so many ways. She had an indescribably sweet spirit and imagination. It’s unbelievable that this could have happened.”