Mahesh Padmanabhan

Knowledge Flows: Industrial Rheology Perspectives

July 2023

Mahesh Padmanabhan

Research Fellow

Mondelēz International

Please give a brief summation of your day-to-day work.

Technical leadership, develop technical capabilities, influencing R&D, broad future-focused enterprise agenda in rheology, solutions to strategically important business needs, external partnerships, enable & drive the modeling and digital agenda.

How do you use rheology in your day-to day work?

Apply existing (internal & external) knowledge & expertise in rheology, design and develop strategic programs and projects to solve complex problems to build fundamental and technological solutions applicable to ingredients, formulations, processes, products and consumer perception.

What inspired you to become a scientist and/or pursue a career in your specific field?

Passion for making science practical.

When did you decide to pursue a career in industry/government?

When I was a graduate student.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

Using science to solve practical problems.

How has involvement with The Society of Rheology helped to shape/influence your career?

Built a strong and extensive network, inspiration for new technical approaches to solving complex problems, source for theoretical and academic advancements.

After completing formal education, what is one new skill set that you developed/acquired that has been critical for your career?


What are the two most important non-technical skills for a career in science?

Influencing and emotional intelligence.

What was the biggest challenge moving from academia into your current career?

Balancing tactical and strategic needs.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had received earlier in your career?

Importance of soft skills to build relationships important to navigate in the industry.

What advice would you give to students making the transition to their first job?

Learn how to apply the academic knowledge to solve the practical problems and build strong relationships – the stronger this foundation is the more successful the career.

What advice would you give to students considering graduate school?

Begin thinking about how the courses and thesis work could be useful in the industry (especially, if interested in an industrial career).

Looking towards the future, what are you most excited about in your career and/or science?

Opportunities to build and apply modeling tools (especially, data science) in combination with rheology fundamentals to the complex problems in the food business.

If you could meet and have lunch with one scientist (past or present), who would it be and why?

Martin Laun (retired from BASF)

How has mentorship impacted your career?

Opened my eyes to the complexities and challenges in building a progressive career in the industry and identifying a unique solution that works for me.

From the mentor perspective, what advice would you give to others serving as mentors?

I have learned that I need to alert to not be a solution provider and instead be a sympathetic ear & help the mentee see the possibilities.

From the mentee perspective, what advice would you give to mentees?

In the beginning understand their individual passion and purpose, be flexible and open minded to the opportunities and possibilities.

What advice would you give to individuals that are either starting and/or leading collaborations between companies?

Be flexible & transparent while being wary of scope creep.

What challenges and benefits have you seen from collaborations between academia and industry?

Benefits include bringing new thinking, fresh perspectives, or even reinforcing our understanding/hypotheses, and deep theoretical fundamentals. Challenges include costs, speed, and the need to spend a significant amount of the project time in educating the academia on the technical aspects project.