Meet the 2017 Board Election Candidates – Part 4: Best Early Career Memories

Voting for next year's AIChE Board of Directors is under way as of August 28th at Have your say and help direct the future of AIChE by voting!

The Young Professionals Committee (YPC) asked potential members of AIChE's board four questions about Young Professionals and AIChE. They were asked to answer two main questions, and were given the option of choosing to respond to additional questions, so you may not see responses from every candidate for every question. Answers are shown in alphabetical order by position and the candidate's last name.

In addition to learning about the candidates here, you can also learn more about candidates and the election process on the AIChE election page

Q: What is your best memory of being a young chemical engineer?

For President-Elect

John J. Ekerdt

Without question my best memory is joining the chemical engineering faculty of the University of Texas at Austin and beginning my academic career of teaching classes, advising and mentoring graduate students, and building a research program. It was frightening to be responsible for one’s destiny and it was also empowering. So many decisions had to be made — and they were mine to make. I had served as a teaching assistant and in that capacity I solved the problems the instructor wrote and led discussion sections to support the lectures. Now I had to select the text, decide on the lecture content, write the homework and exam problems and assign the final course grades. Graduate students see and experience the research enterprise from a different perspective than the one I was now living where everything rides on your decisions. I had to outfit my laboratory, secure research grants and convince incoming students to sign on with me and work on my research problems. I also learned about research going on in other groups across engineering, physics, and chemistry, and developed life-long collaborations that have contributed greatly to my successes.

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Kimberly Ogden

The best thing about being a chemical engineer is realizing how many companies hire chemical engineers and how many areas of research we are involved in. I realized this when I attended my first national meeting in San Francisco as a student. It was the first time I had been "West of the Mississippi." I mixed business and vacation. I had to take the cable car. I also remember meeting some of the chemical engineering "greats." The people that were authors of my textbooks. It was easy to meet other students, and challenging to meet professionals, but talking with the ones I met was amazing. Linking students and professionals is something we all have to continue to work on together.

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For Treasurer

Rosemarie D. Wesson

My first job as a chemical engineer was as a research engineer for Dow Chemical Company. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and went immediately to work for Dow. At the time, I was one of a few young engineers in the department and one of only a few female engineers.

I worked in SMP—Styrene Molded Polymers. The research involved engineering performance based styrene-based polymers (plastics) to behave more like metals and less like plastics. The group was focused on developing and commercializing new polymer technologies in a wide range of markets including automotive, pharmaceutical, personal care, food, electrical, and telecommunication applications.

This was my first introduction to polymers and polymer engineering. The more experienced researchers were very accommodating and I learned a lot from them. My first assignment was to learn how to operate a 1 lb/hr mini-plant. The work was new to me and I found it very exciting and challenging. Not only was it science based but the actual operation of the mini-plant required understanding of flow, viscosity, shear and heat transfer. Safety was very important and I also received a crash course in safe operations in the chemical industry.

I still remember my supervisors took the time to coach and advise me. I try to do the same with young engineers today.

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For Director

Raymond A. Cocco

Early in my career, a group of us at Dow Chemical developed a fiber optical probe for measuring solids flow. We patented it and I gave the first presentation of this concept at 1994 AIChE Annual Meeting. I remember being nervous. The probe was practical but there were some assumptions that could be questioned and there were limitations that needed to be addressed. The questions after that presentation were all relevant and there were a lot of them. However, all the questions were addressed, and the presentation was well received.

For me, it was most agreeable to see this probe put into practice. Yet, it was more memorable when I got to show the world what we had done and to get feedback from that world. It was my first patented invention and it got the approval of my peers and some suggestions on how to make it better.

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Anthony F. Fregosi

One of the most enduring memories I have of my time as a young chemical engineer occurred only one to two years following graduation. I was assigned to do a study involving a tank and pumping system. My head was filled with all my "book learning." I thought I saw a perfect opportunity to apply my knowledge regarding differential equations! When I told my then-supervisor (a seasoned chemical engineer who was from England no less) my proposed plan, he looked at me as if I was from another planet. In his deadpan British accent he asked me why I did not just use a bucket and stopwatch to measure the discharge rate from the tank!

It was at that moment that I realized that school was over and that my education was really about to begin!

This is a lesson I have never forgotten.

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Alon V. McCormick

In summer internship positions: Seeing the integration of the chemical engineering fundamentals — balances, transport, thermodynamics, kinetics, dynamics and control — in the design and safe operation of processing units.

As a graduate student and postdoctoral associate: Benefiting from expert guidance, coaching, and challenging from research advisors to use molecular insights in the chemical engineering of nano-structures and -processes for separations and catalysis (though that was before the prefix “nano-“ was used very much).

As a young professor: Watching the launch of students' careers as young professionals. Getting to see and hear about their early accomplishments, challenges, and unique career paths. Hearing from prospective employers of our students, including at local and national meetings of AIChE. Forging new working relationships and friendships with a wider range of colleagues in the field — including by volunteering for service in programming functions at the AIChE national meetings.

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Lori T. McDowell

One of my best memories of being a young chemical engineer was one of the first times I presented a paper at an AIChE meeting. I gave my paper and after I had answered a number of questions and my time was up, the session chair realized that the next speaker had not shown up. He asked me if I would continue to answer questions, and I answered questions for a full 25 extra minutes. It really helped build my confidence and also helped me feel like I was a very capable chemical engineer.

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Timothy J. Olsen

My best experience is having the ability to travel the world with the business paying my expenses. My work in the refining industry is global, so travel outside the United States is common. I had culture shock when I first went overseas, but quickly realized and appreciated the differences in cultures. Great memories seeing the various parts of the world.

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Mark A. Stadtherr

As a young chemical engineer, I was a faculty member in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Many of my best memories from that time involve undergraduate teaching. There was great personal satisfaction in seeing students learn and apply new concepts and then move on to their careers as young professionals. I was also gratified to know that students appreciated my efforts as a teacher, as I received a student-selected teaching award and other recognitions of excellence in teaching. I also have special memories during this time of getting my first publication in AIChE Journal. Though I had published papers in other journals before, AIChE Journal was (and is) a flagship journal of the profession, so publishing a first paper there had special significance. Finally, I also have great memories from attending the AIChE Annual Meeting as a young faculty member. Beyond being the place to keep up with things technically , this was an occasion to catch up with old friends in the chemical engineering community and to make new ones.

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