- BE: Chemical Engineering, Youngstown State University, 2003
- Ph.D.: Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, advisor: Sachin Velankar, 2007
- Post-doc: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), advisor:
Steve Hudson, 2008 – 2010
- Post-doc: Unilever, advisor: Y. Thomas Hu, 2010 – 2011
- Job history: Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products (currently Kenvue), 2011 – present; current position: Principal Scientist
Please give a brief summation of your day-to-day work.
My day-to-day work varies between running simple characterization tests on formulas and prototype formulas (rheology, light scattering, microscopy,
stability testing, foam analysis, etc.), to working with Product Development teams to solve issues ranging from unstable consumer product formulas
to manufacturing issues to claims substantiation, to upstream / exploratory work such as building models that can accelerate product development and
save money by linking instrumental measures to things like consumer perception or formula stability.
How do you use rheology in your day-to day work?
I use rheology extensively in my day-to-day work. Some examples are: using rheology to probe the microstructure of different consumer product formulas
to gain understanding related to ingredient function, stability, aesthetics; designing rheological tests to gain insight into product performance during
manufacturing and help set manufacturing parameters; performing advanced rheological testing (nonlinear) to mimic consumer product behavior during use and
using measured parameters to predict product aesthetics.
What inspired you to become a scientist and/or pursue a career in your specific field?
I have always been extremely curious as to how and why things work; I also enjoyed Chemistry, so Chemical Engineering seemed to be a perfect fit. I became
interested in the field of rheology due to my excellent graduate school advisor, and I fell in love with working on consumer products during a post-doc at Unilever.
When did you decide to pursue a career in industry/government?
During my post-doc at Unilever, I decided that I wanted to help develop products that touched the lives of millions of people every day.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?
Seeing a product that I helped develop on the shelves of a local store, and hearing from friends / family / strangers how much they enjoy using the product that I helped develop.
How has involvement with The Society of Rheology helped to shape/influence your career?
The SoR meetings have always been a great place for me to network and to learn about the different types of work happening in the field. Involvement with the SoR
has allowed me to make connections which led to very fruitful collaborations including an ongoing collaboration with a university where we are exploring the
relationships between rheology and human perception of materials.
After completing formal education, what is one new skill set that you developed/acquired that has been critical for your career?
Networking, and being able to effectively and succinctly explain what I do and why it is valuable to the business.
What are the two most important non-technical skills for a career in science?
For a career in science in industry, I would say the ability to effectively communicate the value that you bring to the company and why that value is
unique / hard to replace, and the ability to network within your own company and with others working in similar fields.
What was the biggest challenge moving from academia into your current career?
Learning what is valued in a business setting and learning how to tailor my skill set to maximize my value to the business. Also, coming up with new projects
that effectively balance having value for the business while being interesting & important from a fundamental scientific point of view.
What is one piece of advice you wish you had received earlier in your career?
Meet as many people from as many different functions within the business as possible. Grow your network as fast as possible and become exposed to as many of
the facets of the business as possible.
What advice would you give to students making the transition to their first job?
Don’t be afraid to meet people and learn what they do, even if you think you might not be interested in it; you never know what you might find interesting.
Also, try and grow your skill set (technical and non-technical); typically, a more versatile employee is more valued, and a more valued employee has a more
stable career. Furthermore, learn your organization and what is valued within it (every company organization / culture is unique).
What advice would you give to students considering graduate school?
Take into account the advisor as well as the work. An advisor with whom you do not get along can make graduate school a much more unpleasant experience.
Also, constantly think about what you want to do after graduate school and begin to take steps to accomplish that during graduate school, don’t wait until
the last minute.
Looking towards the future, what are you most excited about in your career and/or science?
I am very excited in the developing area of nonlinear rheology and its analysis. When consumers use the products that we make, the product response is
extremely nonlinear and I am always looking for measures that can give insight into what people are feeling while using products and why they make the
decisions that they do when they say that they like or dislike a certain product.
If you could meet and have lunch with one scientist (past or present), who would it be and why?
Any of the scientists who helped create the field of quantum mechanics. I have always found that field to be immensely interesting and I am always trying
to expand my rudimentary understanding of that field.
How has mentorship impacted your career?
Mentorship has significantly impacted my career, especially having a mentor who could give me advice on technical as well as non-technical aspects of being
an effective scientist in an industrial setting.
From the mentor perspective, what advice would you give to others serving as mentors?
Listen before speaking. People approach situations in different ways and an effective mentor needs to first understand the strengths and weaknesses of the
mentee, and then tailor their advice so that it can be utilized by the mentee in a way that best suits their strengths while attempting to improve upon their
weaknesses as much as possible.
From the mentee perspective, what advice would you give to mentees?
Be open and honest. Don’t be afraid to express areas in which you are deficient and wish to improve. Take constructive feedback to heart.
What advice would you give to individuals that are either starting and/or leading collaborations between companies?
Design collaborations from the very beginning in a way that can benefit both sides, dividing responsibilities in a smart way that plays to the strengths of both
sides. Scope the collaboration in a smart way, lean on your legal department to make strong agreements that can benefit both sides. If something isn’t working,
don’t be afraid to change directions quickly.
What challenges and benefits have you seen from collaborations between academia and industry?
The goals of industry and academia are often misaligned, and the most effective collaborations between academia and industry are those that are designed to
incentivize both sides, which can be challenging. It is often useful to form a collaboration using a “model” system which allows academics to publish, while
giving information that the industrial partners can take back inside and extend to fit their own proprietary systems. From an industrial perspective, become
friends with your liaisons in the legal department as their help with generating agreements, contracts, and collaborations is invaluable.
For hiring managers
What pointers would you give to first time job seeking students?
Network as much as possible. Become exposed to as much as possible in the field in which you are interested. There are many job functions that you might not
be aware of and that you might find interesting.
When is the optimum time to start looking for jobs during graduate school?
It’s never too early to network, but start looking for jobs during your last 1 – 1.5 years as more specialized openings, such as those in the field of rheology,
can be more uncommon. Furthermore, the hiring process can sometimes take some time depending on the company, and companies can sometimes delay hiring for a few
months if the candidate is exceptional.
Does flexibility in job search play a role in current times, especially when the job market seems to be highly competitive?
Flexibility is extremely important. If you find a role that might not be exactly what you would like to do but it is with a company for whom you would like to work,
take it. Once you are hired, you can begin to either look for openings that better suit your interests or begin expanding your current role to include more of the
things you’re interested in (just be sure to not neglect the responsibilities for which you were hired). Furthermore, nowadays scientists are expected to be highly
versatile not just technically but on the business side as well. A successful industrial scientist will be technically strong, versatile, and have a good understanding
of the business side as well.