Meet the 2018 Board Election Candidates - Part 1: AIChE's Impact

Voting for next year's AIChE Board of Directors is under way as of August 27th 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. 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: How has AIChE leadership impacted your personal and professional life?

For President-Elect

Monty Alger

As I reflect on my years in AIChE, I have found that what I see from today looking back is different from when I was young looking forward. Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford in 2005 explains this as “connecting the dots.” AIChE generates “dot-connecting” activities for members as it provides connections and experiences across the membership through the AIChE Academy, AIChE Engage, and other initiatives. 

As a broad chemical engineering organization, AIChE brings together a unique community with a wealth of experience and, as a result, it is a wonderful place to share and learn new things. As an AIChE member, I have met and worked with people from a broad range of companies, universities, and other organizations from an array of industries including technology, business, financial services, consulting, and education. I have learned that despite the differences in businesses, customers, products, and processes, many of the problems are the same. 

Chemical engineering is not simply a profession; it’s a collection of skills that we use as a foundation for a long and interesting career. Meeting and sharing with others at AIChE leads to new ideas and opportunities — and can create enduring, life-long relationships. 

Connect on Engage

Dan Lambert

I got involved in AIChE looking to encourage and support younger chemical engineers. My goal was to serve others, not to be a leader. But I worked with so many great people and leaders and learned a little from each.

I started by volunteering to be membership chair in my Local Section and got involved in leadership in the Nuclear Engineering Division (NED), serving as one of three vice chairs under Bond Calloway. I was elected vice chair of my Local Section and then attended a leadership development conference, where I met other AIChE leaders. I returned home and convinced my Local Section to host the next leadership development conference, which gave me a chance to work with AIChE staff and leaders in planning the conference. I became chair of the NED and my Local Section the same year. 

After my year as chair was over, I was looking for a new challenge. I convinced Todd Willman and the Local Section Committee trusted me to start a Virtual Local Section (VLS) with support from Neil Yeoman, Dave Eckhardt, Bill Dumas, Laura Gimpelson and Amanda Robben. I was VLS founding chair and have supported the VLS for almost a decade.

Next, I joined the Career and Education Operating Council (CEOC) and got involved in the committee that selected the webinars that AIChE produces to support chemical engineers at all experience levels (I now lead this committee). I was later asked to chair the CEOC together with Diane Spencer and Ed Trujillo.

Next, I ran for the Board of Directors (BOD) after my term as CEOC chair was complete. Surprisingly I was elected then served on the BOD with AIChE presidents Otis Shelton, Greg Stephanopoulos, and Cheryl Teich. So, my passion to serve has led me places I never expected to go.

Connect on Engage

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For Secretary

John P. O’Connell

The end of my term on the AIChE Board of Directors in 2017 coincided with my 50th year of membership. I can hardly remember a time when my life did not involve AIChE. The Institute has been a vital complement to my academic work by providing me with meaningful technical and social activities, sharing knowledge and understandings, and developing important friendships.

Because of AIChE’s global stature, I have been afforded exceptional opportunities to affect technology and education in many countries. The interplay of career and volunteering has greatly enhanced my work and enriched my being. 

Taking leadership positions has given me important insights about professional values, networking, and productivity that I could not get any other way. Having responsibilities in all levels of programming, in important policy deliberations, and in evaluations of projects and for awards has enhanced my development as a person and as a professional. In addition, they have given me many opportunities to pass on the wisdom and spirit of my teachers and colleagues. 

As an AIChE Student Chapter Advisor for many years, I gained great satisfaction in helping students to grow beyond the classroom and laboratory. AIChE materials, meetings, staff, and members were very important in this process. The possibility of serving as AIChE Secretary appeals to me because of the important responsibilities of the office, the opportunity to continue giving back, and the chance to be with the best of our profession. 

Connect on Engage

Joseph D. Smith

Because of my service as the student chapter president at BYU, I was able to network with many leaders at companies that I contacted while fundraising for our regional conference. This resulted in more job interviews and helped me start building my professional network. It also helped me learn more about the industry and gave me insight into what type of job I would enjoy. Later while serving as the student chapter advisor at Tenn Tech, I was able to get acquainted with other advisors to further broaden my academic network. 

When serving as the programming chair and eventually the chair of the Mid-Michigan section while working for Dow Chemical, I learned valuable leadership skills from senior members of Dow that helped me on my job. Serving as chair of the student papers competition for about 20 years, I met some of the top students in America and was able to pass on their names to our recruiting department.

While serving as a Director and then Treasurer of AIChE, I learned valuable experience about Board Governance and about corporate finance which has helped me in managing my own company. The experience I have gained from serving in AIChE leadership positions has had one of the biggest, if not the biggest, impact on my professional life. 

The people I've met while serving have formed the core of my professional network. As a result, I have many friends around the world who I can call and ask questions when I need advice or information. Looking back I am very grateful that I took the opportunity to serve as a student leader and that I took the time to serve as a young professional. 

Connect on Engage

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For Director

Ana P. Davis

Leadership within the AIChE community has been a very rewarding experience in all aspects of my life. Although my professional career has included leadership roles across various disciplines, I find that my most memorable and rewarding experiences are mentoring, developing and creating opportunities for the next generation of AIChE chemical engineers. This not only gives back to our young professionals, but their insights and perspectives have led to personal “breakthrough” leadership moments.

This reverse mentoring has helped me become a more effective and thoughtful leader. Being an AIChE leader has further elevated my enthusiasm and pride for chemical engineering, which is woven into my professional and personal life. AIChE leadership experiences have given me a broader understanding of the breadth, reach and importance of chemical engineers in shaping the future.

The excitement for what has yet to come in our field has also shaped the lives of my children in ways I never expected. They have seen the world through the lenses of chemical engineering parents (I met my husband in thermodynamics class!) and the importance of giving back through active leadership in the AIChE community. As a result, I am now the very proud parent of two chemical engineering students at my alma mater. I am thankful that AIChE and the Young Professionals Network can serve as a key resource in their journey. 

Connect on Engage

Brian H. Davison

I have been able to meet colleagues and develop professional friendships. This has led to me being mentored in leadership and mentoring others in leadership. Being a leader in a society also has given me the opportunity to organize sessions and eventually entire meetings or workshops in topics that I find useful. This has allowed me to catalyze my and others’ interest in these areas.

Connect on Engage

Walter L. Frank

We start our professional life with our college studies behind us. Hopefully, we then receive solid mentoring during our initial job assignments. 

Participation in AIChE programs provides a wide range of educational opportunities that can build upon this foundation. I cannot begin to quantify what I have learned through my interactions with both mentors and peers within the AIChE context — it has been significant. The fresh perspectives gained from others outside your company or your industry can provide valuable knowledge and insights for addressing the problems you face on the job, or in your career.

In my case, interactions with fellow AIChE members led me to become active in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Our small cadre of joint AIChE/NFPA members were able to embed AIChE-generated process safety concepts into key NFPA combustible dust fire and explosion safety standards, while integrating important learnings from NFPA back into our AIChE safety efforts. As this came about, I picked up a knowledge base that now serves as the foundation of much of my consulting practice. I learned far more than I could ever have learned on the job.

During this time, I also gained important knowledge about how to effectively work with committees comprised of diverse people with diverse opinions. I ended up chairing an NFPA technical committee for over 20 years, while also working up through the AIChE Safety & Health Division and the 11a Committee leadership progression, ultimately chairing the Division and, later, the Loss Prevention Symposium.

No one will ever get a promotion just because they chaired some industry technical committee. But, when management or a client is looking for a distinction between two candidates, someone who has demonstrated the ability and initiative to broaden out beyond their routine job responsibilities will surely gather attention. 

Connect on Engage

Syamal Poddar

Over the years as a chemical engineer and member of AIChE, both my professional and personal life got positively impacted by the organization and its leadership.

AIChE is truly a home for chemical engineers. This organization, which is now 110 years old, has undergone a transformation to meet the challenges of the society we live in. This organizational agility and the vision of the leaders has made these relevant changes.

I have always gained knowledge and experience via networking with diverse members at the local and national levels and from the support staff at AIChE. This has always fostered a sense of belonging. These enrichments have gone beyond the professional level to a personal level. I was fortunate to be able to cultivate personal relationships with colleagues whom I could trust and interact with openly and freely. 

Connect on Engage

David S. Sholl

Participating in AIChE has helped me to better appreciate the context of my work within the overall profession. As a university professor, one of the wonderful aspects of my job is watching students grow and succeed in their careers.

AIChE plays many key roles in providing training, connection, and opportunities to chemical engineers at all stages of their careers. This means that contributing to AIChE brings me the same joy in seeing a positive impact on people's lives and careers. 

Connect on Engage