AIChE 35 Under 35: Leadership

With support from the AIChE Foundation, AIChE and its Young Professional Committee (YPC) are honoring 35 notable young professionals under the age of 35 based on achievements in seven categories: bioengineering, chemicals, energy, innovation, educations, leadership, and safety. You can learn more about the award here.

The winners in all seven categories were announced in the August 2017 issue of CEP Magazine. Here on ChEnected, we’re featuring winner interviews conducted by YPC. This week, we'll be featuring winners in the category of leadership. Winners are presented below in alphabetical order, by last name. Or you can click on their names in the list below to go directly to their interview. Be sure to congratulate the winners by sharing on social media with the hashtag #AIChE35Under35.

Donna Bryant, 27:

Managing the wastewater streams for an entire plant

Donna is the environmental operations unit superintendent at Syngenta's St. Gabriel site. She leads a 26-person unit that treats the plant's wastewater stream and removes remaining waste from the site. While working on her undergradate degree at the Univ. of Virginia, she became active in AIChE and remains an active member. In the spring of 2016, she became a professional engineer in Louisiana. 

AIChE YPC: Tell us about your current and past involvement in AIChE.

Donna Bryant: I currently serve as vice chair for the AIChE Baton Rouge Local Chapter, which I joined in 2014. I've also been a member of YPC since 2014 and served as YPC programming chair for last year's Annual Conference in San Francisco. In 2016, I became a member of the Management Division and became vice programming chair. While in college, I served from 2010 to 2011 as president of the UVA Student Chapter, which was named a chapter of excellence. 

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

DB: I originally wanted to become a doctor so decided to pursue engineering to differentiate myself from all of the other pre-med students. However, after the first semester of engineering, I decided to stay in engineering because I loved the problem-solving associated with engineering too much. I decided to major in chemical engineering because it provided a wide diversity of fields to be able to work in, including stem cell research which I was very interested in while in school.



 

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your speciality?

DB: I tried out a wide variety of fields within chemical engineering to find out which one I liked the best. I first started by exploring the biological focus within chemical engineering by volunteering to work in a lab at the UVA Medical School doing adult stem cell research. I was able to have a really neat experience in this job doing liposuction on fat tissue chunks and growing my own cell cultures. After a year, however, I realized that wasn't what I wanted to do long term. I then interned at a nuclear engineering company. It was fascinating, but again I realized that that wasn't the field I wanted to start my career in right after school. I then interned at the Syngenta Omaha operation facility and absolutely loved it! Syngenta is an agricultural company that produces crop protection products. In this industry I was able to mesh my love for biological sciences, problem solving, math, and trying to help the world. I was hooked. I joined Syngenta in a rotational program after graduating. 

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

DB: Becoming the youngest superintendent at the Syngenta St. Gabriel Plant site; becoming a professional engineer in the State of Louisiana the first time I took the test.

AIChE YPC: What personal achievement are you most proud of?

DB: Having a close knit family; running 2 marathons; and backpacking the Grand Canyon rim to rim in 3.5 days. 

AIChE YPC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Managing people consistently but in different ways based on their personalities. 

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

DB:  Being able to work "hands-on" with my employees to make the unit run safely and efficiently.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

I don't necessarily have my whole future mapped out, but I do have certain things I would like to achieve. One of the main things is to continue to have challenging jobs that require creativity, working with people, and problem solving. Some future roles I can see for myself are being a production manager for a production site and a supply chain manager. 

Fun facts about Donna

  • Most-Used app: Instagram
  • Favorite snack food: Buttered popcorn
  • Favorite book: Jane Eyre
  • If you were not a chemical engineer, what would you be?
  • Childhood dream job: Doctor by day, farmer by night

I was able to mesh my love for biological sciences, problem solving, math, and trying to help the world.

Learn more about Donna in CEP Magazine

 

Lane Daley, 28:

Taking an adventurous approach to challenges

Lane is a project engineer at Clif Bar and Company, where she identifies and leads engineering projects at company's bakery facility in Twin Falls, ID. Among the awards she has received are the NCSU Chemical Engineer Leadership Award in 2011 and the Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer National Scholarship Award in 2010.

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

Lane Daley: I enjoy understanding how things work, both mechanically and chemically.

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your specialty?

LD: I am still trying to find what my specialty is! Today, I am following my passions. I am passionate about enjoying the outdoors and my job at Clif Bar allows me to fuel outdoors adventures for myself and others.

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

LD: I worked with a manufacturing site in Estonia to close out a large scope of work in a short period of time. Despite not knowing the people, the language, or the process, we were successful in reaching our goals. We reached these goals because I had an awesome team! All they needed was a little direction from me.

AIChE YPC: What personal achievement are you most proud of?

LD: I was part of the founding group for the Tri-Cities Tennessee Professional Chapter of Engineers without Borders.  We partnered with a community in Samne, Peru, and I was part of the team that first visited to assess the water needs of the community. Right now, a plan is underway to bring clean water to Samne!

AIChE YPC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

LP: Not eating all of our product.

AIChE YPC: What is the hardest decision you have had to make?

LD: I recently decided to leave the chemical industry, move across the country, and start making energy bars for a living.

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

LD: I work for a phenomenal company and have amazing coworkers, in a wonderful location, and make a product I am passionate about.  And I can puzzle over cool engineering problems!

AIChE YPC: What lesson do you wish you would have learned sooner?

LD: Who your immediate supervisor is has a large impact on your career and on job enjoyment. Different companies have different cultures and finding one that resonates with you is important because we spend too much time at work to not 100% enjoy it.

AIChE YCP: What are your goals for the future?

LD: I enjoy leading and empowering people.  There are many ways that I do this when working with my coworkers, but one day I would like to have supervisory responsibilities. 

Fun facts about Lane

  • What is your favorite book? Pride and Prejudice
  • What is the last online purchase you made? Mountain biking shoes
  • If you were not a chemical engineer, what would you be? A professional hike/mountain bike guide

I work for a phenomenal company and have amazing coworkers, in a wonderful location, and make a product I am passionate about. 

Learn more about Lane in CEP Magazine. 

 

Ben Freireich, 33:

Emanating enthusiasm for science, engineering, and learning

Ben is currently  technical director at Particulate Solids Research, Inc., which provides pre-competitive research to members as well as proprietary contract research to companies. Research focuses on applications of particle technology fundamentals with a specific focus on fluidized systems. In his role as technical director, Ben guides all member and contract research programs, which are led by the company's engineering and technical staff. Among his awards, he was named the Dow Chemical Core R&D Young Researcher of the Year in 2016.

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

Ben Freireich: I like particles. The most exciting particulate systems are in chemical processing. By the transitive property of "liking stuff" I like chemical processing and, therefore, practice as a chemical engineer.



 It's hard to say what inspired me to pursue engineering as a whole. I think I was born an engineer. As a four-year-old I asked my parents if nodding when you're lying on your side means yes or no. Is it the direction of the nod relative to my body or the Earth that signifies yes or no? I've also always made easy life decisions vastly more complex via charts and graphs. I once used a system of differential equations to determine how many pizzas I should order. Yeah. I was born this way.

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your specialty?

BF: A spreadsheet of course. As an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, but I found everything interesting. So I read the research description section of every engineering faculty member of every university I had ever heard of. Every time I saw a word or phrase that made me think "that sounds cool" I put it in a spreadsheet. After I had a list of several hundred phrases, I went back and lumped them into coarse categories. I quickly realized that I really like both solid and fluid mechanics. Granular materials are both solid and fluid, depending on circumstances. Hence, now I've specialized in particulate systems, and I love it.

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

BF: There is not a single more satisfying feeling than when the model fits the data. In 2011 I had to quickly develop a process model for a high pressure, high temperature, corrosive chemistry, impossible-to-measure process. The model development had to happen with very little information and even less time, so a lot of engineering judgment had to be used quickly. The first time we had the chance to plot the plant performance with the model predictions, the results were within 10%. I'm pretty sure I cried with excitement.

AIChE YPC: What personal achievement are you most proud of?

BF: I have four kids and a wife who are all the smartest, most interesting, and coolest people I know. That I get to be part of their lives fills me with pride. My achievement thus far is living with the integrity required to continue to be a part of their lives.

AIChE YPC: What is a challenge you overcame and how did you overcome it?

BF: When I was 17 I found out, via standardized testing, that I was reading at an elementary school level.  I was WAY behind my peers and had no chance at all of getting into a competitive engineering program as I had hoped (I was told to not even bother applying by an admissions officer).  It was clear to me then that I was not going to catch up by going slower.  I had to read a LOT.  So I did and I do.  I still cannot read as quickly as my peers, but I have found some tricks to help me keep up.

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

BF: I get paid to do science. I get paid to do science.  The Discovery Channel, PopularScience, Myth Busters, Bill Nye, etc. exist because people enjoy the ideas of science. I get to enjoy all of that and do it for money.

AIChE YPC: What lesson do you wish you would have learned sooner?

BF: The humanities are so important. All engineers know jokes about how their discipline is better than others, or how engineering is so much more difficult or important than business or the humanities. The most insidious example is how engineering disciplines argue over which field caused the Allies to win WWII. ChE's think it was fluidized catalytic cracking or rubber supply.  IE's think it was our advanced logistics or Abraham Wald's famous "reinforce where you don't see bullet holes" example.   Everyone takes credit for ending the war. The reality is that our only hope for preventing WWIII, or similar destruction, is appreciation and investment in the humanities. Technological solutions are useless if we don't recognize the human cost of avoiding our current global challenges. We don't have energy or other resource crises. We have an empathy crisis. Engineers can help, but we are not the experts in addressing that challenge.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

BF: To learn more.

Fun facts about Ben


  • Do you have any odd or quirky habits? I find it difficult to communicate without drawing pictures. I generally always have at least two different colored pens on me and regularly draw on napkins. My home has a 4'x8' whiteboard so that I don't draw on the walls.
  • What is your favorite book? My wife jokes that every fiction book I've ever read suddenly becomes my favorite book. So I won't mention one of those due to questionable sincerity. In the "mostly non-fiction" category, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman had a huge influence on me as a high school student. The goofiness of Feynman along with his obvious passion for practicing and disseminating genuine scientific curiosity is something I strive to emulate.

There is not a single more satisfying feeling than when the model fits the data.

Learn more about Ben in CEP Magazine.

 

David W. Holt, 33:

Applying chemical engineering in the court room 

David is an associate attorney and works on a variety of intellectual property and commercial litigation matters in state and federal courts around the country. His cases span a broad range of issues, including patent and trademark infringement, commercial and contractual disputes, drug and medical device defense, financial services and mortgage litigation, and product liability. Since 2014, David has been named an Alabama and Mid-South Rising Star in Intellectual Property Litigation. He is an AIChE Senior Member and the Secretary of the Chemical Engineering & the Law Forum.

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

David Holt: Chemical engineering was described to me as the most rigorous course of study at my university. I was also told that it would prepare me for a future in any field I chose to pursue. I chose chemical engineering for both of those reasons.

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your specialty?

DH: As an undergraduate student, I was exposed to patent law and given the opportunity to be engaged in my university's technology transfer and patent acquisition process. Those experiences led me to learn more about the application of my chemical engineering education to patents and to law more broadly. I found the interplay between my engineering background and the law to be very appealing.

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

DH: As a new lawyer, I took on a case through our local volunteer lawyers program, providing pro bono representation to a disabled, elderly member of my community. My client had been deceived and taken advantage of by a roofing contractor. When I took the case, my client had been sued for allegedly failing to pay her bill to the contractor. Not only did we succeed against the contractor's claims, but we were able to secure a judgment in favor of my client as a result of the damage he caused.

AIChE YPC: What personal achievement are you most proud of?

DH: Despite my shortcomings, I have a smart, beautiful wife (who is also a chemical engineer), and together we have two wonderful daughters. They are what I am most proud of.

AIChE YPC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

DH: In many cases, lawsuits become personal to the parties involved. Even if a case starts out as a business dispute, it is difficult for people not to become emotionally invested. Managing people, much more than the legal process, is the most challenging aspect of my job. The legal process can be long, it can invasive, and it is certainly taxing. It is always a challenge to manage clients' expectations and emotions.

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

DH: I love that even though I do not work as a chemical engineer on a daily basis, I am nonetheless able to see the benefits that my education provides me. My background as a chemical engineer makes me uniquely qualified to handle matters ranging from advising on patent strategies to product liability litigation. More than that, my chemical engineering education taught me how to analyze and work through any problem. That is a skill that I apply on a daily basis.

AIChE YPC: What lesson do you wish you would have learned sooner?

DH: Always be humble. Nothing can be accomplished in the "real world" without the help of others. Whether it is solving a problem, resolving a dispute, or simply digging for information, you will always require the assistance of someone else to accomplish your own personal goals. If you refuse to acknowledge or seek the contributions of your colleagues, the only person you hurt is yourself.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

DH: My goal is to provide my clients with counsel and advice that they rely on to successfully manage all aspects of their business. Whether it is making a strategic business decision, no-holds-barred litigation, or anything in between, I hope that my clients trust me to provide sound counsel and zealous representation. Additionally, I plan to continue to serve my community and my profession by providing pro bono representation to underserved populations.

Fun facts about David

  • What was the first concert you attended? The old country group Alabama
  • Who do you admire most? My wife
  • What is your favorite snack food? Any combination of dark chocolate and nuts
  • What is your favorite book? Hatchet
  • What is the last online purchase you made? Pants
  • If you were not a chemical engineer, what would you be? As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. I still sometimes wonder what it would be like to travel into space.

My chemical engineering education taught me how to analyze and work through any problem. That is a skill that I apply on a daily basis.

Learn more about David in CEP Magazine.

 

Owen P. Jappen, 25:

Keeping an eye on sustainability 

Owen is a senior process engineer in the Process Technology Group at Evonic, where he focuses on process optimization and new process development for superabsorbent polymers. Optimization topics target process and end-product sustainability and responsible energy consumption. He is an AIChE Local Section committee chair and is the YPC 2017 Annual Meeting Programming Chair. In 2015 he won a DiscoverE New Faces of Engineering Award. 

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your specialty?

Owen Jappen: My thermodynamics professor once told an anecdote of a student who studied thermodynamics once and in the end knew nothing. The student continued to study the subject, and after another year or two, he became semi-versed in the subject. After years and years of continuing to study and work in the field, receiving a PhD and recognition, it was at that point the student realized how much about the subject he still didn't know.

 In short, the chemical engineering field is indeed so vast, the most important educational aspect is how to analyze a new situation, understand the context of the problem and desired result — and then proceed with problem solving. While I never formally studied superabsorbent polymers, my undergrad and graduate programs prepared me to "hit the ground running."

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

OJ: Entering, on behalf of Evonik, a state-wide (Nordrhein-Westfalen) competition in Germany for sustainability projects. As of the writing of this response, we received notice that the project is in the next round and the final presentations will be made before a panel of judges later this month. I'll be practicing my presentation in German every night until then!

AIChE YPC: What is a challenge you overcame and how did you overcome it?

OJ: In my capacity leading a large extracurricular organization, many of the inefficiencies of the group's activities stemmed from a lack of structured management tools and protocols. Utilizing methods and tools often employed for managing engineering projects (Gantt charts, etc.), many of the inefficiencies were able to be remedied and the stress falling on individual members was diffused as a result.

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

OJ: Many of our group projects overlap disciplines, company sites, and departments. Exposure to a diverse spectrum of viewpoints and approaches assures that one is always learning something new and considering all possibilities. To me, this is the heart of our company's motto, "The Power to Create"!

AIChE YPC: What lesson do you wish you would have learned sooner?

OJ: One of the most stressful tasks during senior year is deciding on one's first full-time job. Between discussion among peers and LinkedIn articles galore emphasizing its importance, it's easy to view this as a personal-defining moment. My advice to all those currently in this stress, and those to whom it will come: don't worry. In the end you are the captain of your career-ship and will continue to develop and steer it any way you please. There is no wrong choice.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

OJ: As globally oriented solutions rooted in chemical engineering and technology become more prevalent, I believe it is of the utmost importance for chemical engineers to continue finding ways to communicate a full understanding of the subject matter to the general public. I hope to continue volunteering and working for organizations that promote this effort and support cementing this value as a pillar of our community.

Fun facts about David


  • What app do you use the most? Hangouts!
  • Do you have any odd or quirky habits? Remembering SNL sketches word for word.
  • What is the last online purchase you made? Train tickets to Brussels!

Exposure to a diverse spectrum of viewpoints and approaches assures that one is always learning something new and considering all possibilities.

Learn more about Owen in CEP Magazine.

 

Meagan Elizabeth Lewis, 31:

Leading by example

Meagan is a senior product line manager at Honeywell UOP, where she has worked in a number of positions since 2008. In her current role, she manages a product portfolio for the light olefins petrochemical catalyst division. She completed her Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign and earned an MBA at Loyola University Chicago. Meagan currently serves on the AIChE Board of Directors.

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

Meagan Lewis: When I was in high school I attended several career fairs, STEM days, and STEM camps to try to decide what I would pursue in college. I already knew I loved science but for whatever reason the presentation that caught my interest the most was a chemical engineering presentation about snickers and scale-up. They talked about the ins and outs of the R&D that went into developing the candy and then how they had to use their chemical engineering skills to figure out how to make the mini-sized candy bar versus the regular one. Somehow the discussion on quality and specifications inspired me to commit to chemical engineering, even though I now work in oil and gas.

AIChE YPC: Chemical engineering is a diverse field. How did you get involved in your specialty?

ML: I am currently on the business and marketing side of Honeywell UOP which is an oil and gas licensing company. When I studied chemical engineering, I knew from the beginning that I would never have a strictly technical role, but I did start in Field Services at UOP. As soon as I stopped traveling with Field Services, I pursued my MBA at Loyola Chicago with a focus in marketing and finance, which helped lead me to the role I am in today.

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

ML: The personal achievement I am most proud of is being a working mom. I have two beautiful children who keep me busy but they know even at a young age how important my career is to me. I hope to inspire my kids to work hard but still have a balance of work and play. 

AIChE YPC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

ML: I work for a very international company. The most challenging part of my job is figure out how to make our product work for and appeal to our markets worldwide. This challenge has given me a great opportunity to learn about the values of different business cultures. 

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

ML: My job depends on a lot of cross-functional teams and I love that. In order to launch a new product or solve a technical issue I have to interact with R&D, Sales, Technical Services, Customer Care and many other groups. I know that might sound tedious, but I love it! I love knowing as many people as I can in my company. Everyone you meet can teach you something new or provide a different insights.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

ML: This is always a hard question because I am very happy with my current situation. One main goal is to always be content in my current career and know when to make a change. Another goal is move into a management role and help lead others in their careers. I hope I can inspire other women to make decisions in their career and pursue their own goals.

 Although not career related, I want to inspire my children to have a desire to learn and question everything.

Fun Facts About Meagan


  • What was the first concert you attended? Backstreet Boys with my Dad, sister, and some close friends
  • What app do you use the most? Facebook
  • What is your favorite snack food? Cheese and crackers
  • Do you have any odd or quirky habits? I hate to backtrack when I'm driving— always take the most direct route. I always say rabbit, rabbit on the first of the month.
  • What is your favorite book? Walk Two Moons, Lean In
  • What is the last online purchase you made? E-book for my Kindle, shoes for my kids
  • If you were not a chemical engineer, what would you be? Accountant or wedding planner

Learn more about Meagan in CEP Magazine.

 

Ahmed Abouelfetouh Youssef, 33:

Leading global and diverse teams

Ahmed currently serves as lead scientist at SABIC, where he leads a global team responsible for the ABS product line. In addition to his bachelor's degree, he holds an MBA from Purdue and a PhD in Energy, Environmental and Chemcial Engineering from Washington University.   

AIChE YPC: What inspired you to pursue chemical engineering?

Ahmed Youssef: The diversity and the wide spectrum of the applications of the field were the primary reasons I got interested in studying Chemical Engineering.

AIChE YPC: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

AY: Leading a global team on an overseas assignment for the Technology licensing and deployment during a start-up of a green-field plant ($600 MM investment) in the Middle East. 



 

AIChE YPC: What personal achievement are you most proud of?

AY: Accomplishing my MBA while working full time and my first issued patent.

AIChE YPC: What is the hardest decision you have had to make?

Moving to the US to pursue my graduate school degree.

AIChE YPC: What do you enjoy most about your job?

AY: The ability to explore new areas of research for the long-term via blue sky projects while continuously being engaged with the complex challenges that the production Sites are facing.

AIChE YPC: What lesson do you wish you would have learned sooner?

AY: A pack would typically move at the pace of the slowest member. Finding the bottlenecks early and addressing them goes a long way.

AIChE YPC: What are your goals for the future?

AY: Since I have recently completed my MBA, I look forward to combining my ChemE skillset with the Business components I acquired to further my career.

Fun facts about Ahmed

  • What app do you use the most? WhatsApp
  • What is your favorite snack food? Cashews
  • What is your favorite book? The Art of War
  • What is the last online purchase you made? Smart digital thermostat by Nest
  • If you were not a chemical engineer, what would you be? A lawyer

Learn more about Ahmed in CEP Magazine.

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