Sarah Eckersley of Dow Receives Evans Chemical Engineering Practice Award

This fall, ChEnected is introducing readers to the recipients of AIChE’s 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards. These are AIChE’s highest honors, and each recipient is nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted upon by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The awards acknowledge outstanding achievements across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors. 

The Lawrence B. Evans Award in Chemical Engineering Practice recognizes outstanding chemical engineering contributions in the industrial practice of the profession, through manufacturing, R&D, management, or business leadership practices. The award is endowed by the AIChE Foundation and sponsored by CACHE (Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering) Corporation.

Dr. Eckersley’s recognition

The recipient of the 2021 Evans Award in Chemical Engineering Practice is Sarah T. Eckersley, global director of research and development and technical service and development for coatings, monomers, and plastics additives at Dow.

Dr. Eckersley is being recognized “for delivering a robust pipeline of technology for Dow Coating Materials.”

Eckersley and the other Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients were honored at the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, November 7–11 in Boston, Massachusetts. A video presentation of the awards will be available for viewing the following week at a virtual version of the Annual Meeting.

The characteristics of a chemical engineer that have benefited my career will do the same for future generations of chemical engineers, and I cannot wait to see what they will achieve.

At Dow, Dr. Eckersley leads an organization of several hundred researchers located around the world. Responsible for developing and delivering innovations aligned to Dow’s business strategy, she collaborates with marketing and commercial organizations to identify high-value initiatives that will be relevant to the marketplace. She is also an executive member of Dow’s R&D leadership team. 

In the past five years, Eckersley’s team has launched more than 40 new products. She has championed a team to develop repulpable, recyclable materials for sustainable paper packaging. Another of her achievements is the creation of Pack Studios, a global network of internal and external packaging experts and technical personnel who collaborate across the value chain. 

Eckersley earned her BS at the University of Ottawa and her PhD at the University of Waterloo, both in chemical engineering. She also completed a program for women on corporate boards at Harvard Business School. She is co-author of 25 publications and inventor on six U.S. patents. She has twice received the Roon Foundation Award, a top honor of the coatings industry.  

More about this year’s award winner

In acknowledging her award, Dr. Eckersley reflected on the qualities that define an engineer and enable an engineer’s world-changing potential. 

“When you search the words ‘chemical engineer characteristics’ on the internet, you’ll find descriptors that include: analytical skills, creativity, ingenuity, math skills, and problem-solving skills. What may not be as readily appreciated from an internet search is the impact these characteristics can have on an individual, a career, and society at large. 

Engineers are pragmatic — we focus on practical outcomes. We are builders. What we build with our pragmatism enables both the essential and the incredible.  

We are structured and intuitive in our thinking — which allows us to integrate and interpret information. Our companies and colleagues count on us for insight, decisions, and action. 

We are collaborators by nature — we integrate the knowledge and talents of our colleagues across disciplines and functions. We turn big dreams into reality. 

My career has spanned experimental research, product development, project management, research leadership, strategy development, organizational development, and people leadership. I have applied those engineering characteristics across that spectrum of roles. And through these roles I have contributed my chemical engineering expertise in ways I never would have imagined.”

Eckersley says that she did not accomplish this work alone; she was enabled and inspired by many colleagues and mentors, who continue to support and motivate her — in her work and in her dedication to building the future profession. 

“Today, I am doubly fortunate and dually inspired to pay that support forward. The characteristics of a chemical engineer that have benefited my career and my contributions will do the same for future generations of chemical engineers, and I cannot wait to see what they will achieve.”

Stay in the know

You can read about all the recipients of the 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards in this series. For a listing of all awards presented by AIChE, visit