Julia and Nicholas Cain

Julia and Nicholas Cain

Julia (B.S.’01) and Nicholas Cain (B.S.’01) were two of the first graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University’s chemical engineering program, enrolling in 1997 and earning their bachelor’s degrees in 2001.

They went on to become part of the leadership team that built San Diego, California-based Ballast Point Brewery into an internationally recognized craft beer brand, which was sold for $1 billion in 2015.

The couple say the rigorous training they received from superb faculty members developed the creative thinking and problem-solving skills that have fueled their careers, and in 2016, they established a scholarship for VCU chemical engineering undergraduates. The Julia M. and Nicholas E Cain Scholarship was the school’s first scholarship endowed by VCU engineering alumni.

Being there at the birth of a new engineering college also yielded life and business lessons. “We watched the College of Engineering grow,” Julia says. “We saw what it looks like when something is being built, so doing that with a company was not all that different.”

The scholarship is awarded to students who excel academically, but the Cains would like to see it go to students who are also excited by the application side of engineering. “You take chemistry as a science and it’s cool,” Julia says. “Then you get to chemical engineering and see how it applies to the world at large.”

Their advice to the VCU chemical engineers who benefit from their scholarship? “Go out and find problems to solve,” Nicholas says. “Follow your passion, and don’t be afraid to take a risk.”


Each year, the Julia M. and Nicholas E. Cain Scholarship helps support a VCU College of Engineering student whose major is chemical engineering.