Gene and Dmitri Moundous stand in their lab in North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Gene and Dmitri Moundous stand in their lab in North Carolina State University in Raleigh. - 
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Alera Labs is headquartered at a university, on NC State's "Centennial Campus" in what is called a technology incubator. The school leases lab space to startups like this one, founded by Dmitri Moundous. "They're letting us use some of their resources, because a startup, we need some sophisticated equipment these days that otherwise we wouldn't have access to," he said.

Alera Labs isn't a big operation. At least not yet. Right now, it is just one room, filled with machines. The company does chemistry work on contract for drug companies. Moundous said his small business gives him some stability, a safety net.

"This is something," said Moundous. "You know, I cannot control the economy, but I can control this. To some extent, you know.  Because if I put in 40, 60, 80 hours a week, I know something will come out of it."

Moundous came here from Russia 20 years ago. He did a post-doc at NC State, and he knows chemistry. But he is still learning how to run a small business.

"Most of the profits that we made in the first year, you know, we put right back," he said. "We purchased new equipment, we're leasing some of the equipment, but we need to grow. And for the high-tech business, there's a lot of investment."

One of Moundous' first hires was his son, Gene, who just graduated from NC State, with a degree in microbiology. Gene is looking at the November election through the prism of his dad's business.

"This is going to be the first election that I will legally be able to vote. I have just become a U.S. citizen, you know, right between the elections. So, I am legit to go," he said. "I definitely have been paying more attention to what's going on."

Gene Moundous has been studying the candidates, and he favors President Obama. He said he wants a president who will help small businesses. His dad, on the other hand, paused when asked whether he will vote.

"I'm not sure," he said, before pausing again. "Uh, actually, I don't think I ever voted."

Dmitri Moundous said he doesn't see the impact of his one vote. And he's not sure it makes that big a difference who is in the White House. He said he doesn't like how his choices are so limited.

"You know, you can only choose between two, but maybe I'm not happy with either one," he said. "So what do I do?"

He said he's grateful it's a free country, and he is able to say that.

Follow David Gura at @davidgura