Congratulations, 2019-20 MMAIChE Award Winners!

It is with great pleasure that we announce today that Michael Molnar has won the Mid-Michigan American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Chemical Engineer of the Year and Laura Basgall has won the Young Chemical Engineer of the Year 2019-2020. Congratulations Michael & Laura.

Michael Molnar, Chemical Engineer of the Year 2019-2020

Michael Molnar began his professional career at Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation (HSC) in 1995 after receiving a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon.  For nineteen years, Michael worked in multiple process R&D and manufacturing support roles at HSC. Most notably, Michael worked on the development of size reduction and classification technologies for high purity polysilicon products and development of fluidized bed deposition process to produce silicon granules.  In 2014, Michael joined a newly formed Engineering Sciences Process R&D group within Dow Corning Corporation. In this role, he supported technology development of specialty silanes and led experimental work in the area of fluidization supporting Dow Corning’s university research programs at University of Colorado and University College London.  In 2017 in Dow, Michael demonstrated an improved route to vinyl-functional chlorosilanes at miniplate scale.  Michael is a recipient of two Dow Corning Corporation Technical Achievement Awards, and he is a recognized inventor with nine granted patent families. In 2015, he was selected by the National Academy of Engineering to participate in the China-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium.

As a practicing engineer and inventor, Michael has developed a portfolio of process technologies through evolutionary development from initial concept and laboratory investigation, driving and executing the design, construction, and operation of pilot scale process for scale-up and risk reduction, and commercial implementation of new technology. He is considered a leading subject matter expert in manufacture of high purity silicon and hydridochlorosilanes.

His inventions revolutionized the production of high purity silicon for semiconductor and photovoltaics (PV) devices. His innovations impacted all aspects, from initial concept and laboratory investigation through pilot scale confirmation and ultimate commercial implementation of new technology that truly advanced silicon production. He specializes in chemical vapor deposition, fluidization, solids processing, reaction engineering, thermodynamics, and pilot plant scale process research. Michael has a strong understanding of chemical engineering fundamentals and makes clear recommendations based on both theory and data.

External to Dow, Michael has served as the treasurer and chairperson of the Mid-Michigan Local Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and continues to be active in the section. In 2018, Michael was elected as an industrial liaison for AIChE’s Particle Technology Forum and he was also elected as a representative of the Executive Committee for the Board of Directors of Particulate Solid Research, Inc., an industrial consortium dedicated to research in gas-solids flow.

In closing, Michael Molnar shows excellence in engineering fundamentals every day.  He thrives on using foundational engineering principles and understanding our technology at the fundamental level.  In his career, he has demonstrated the application of engineering principles to commercially implemented projects with substantive value creation that demonstrated a positive financial impact.  He is not only a great scientist/engineer, but he is also an incredible teacher and mentor to those around him, advancing the engineering skills of the next generation

In 2002, Michael won the Young Chemical Engineer of the Year award for MMAIChE and 18 years later it is fitting to award him with a career achievement because of his outstanding contributions to the chemical industry and the local/national AIChE community. 

Laura Basgall, Young Chemical Engineer of the Year 2019-2020

On May 26th, Laura Basgall, Senior Research Specialist in Performance Silicones Process R&D, Dow Silicones Corporation, was awarded by the Mid-Michigan Local Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) as the Young Chemical Engineer of the Year for the 2019-2020 program year. This award recognizes technical and professional expertise, and leadership that is superior for an early-career engineer.

Laura Basgall joined Dow Corning Corporation in 2012, with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Kansas State University. Since joining the company, Laura has worked Silicone Elastomer and Polymers Process R&D team, serving both as an individual contributor and a program/project leader for thirteen (13) projects. She is recognized for her expertise in processing high viscosity silicone materials developed through ring opening routes as well as enhancement of technologies involving separations of high viscosity materials. She had led numerous commercialization projects involving elastomer and foams as well serving as a Dow Corning Corporation Technology Center leader for high viscosity siloxane polymers and gums. She had prior experience as an intern in 2011 within Process R&D.

Laura has a strong track record in leading teams, with most recently a launch of liquid silicone foam with revenue exceeding $10MM to date. In 2019, Laura, as project leader within Dow Silicones Corporation, was externally recognized as an IChemE Global Award Finalist in the categories of Innovative Product and Team, which speaks well for her ability to drive productive change with commercialization of silicone elastomer materials.

Laura has extensive experience in continuous improvement. She is an internally certified 6-Sigma Black Belt and Lean practitioner as well as a trained member of Dow’s Fundamental Problem Solving network. Laura also supports the business evaluation network with financial analysis for key projects and programs. She has thirty (30) internally published technical reports and received one Manufacturing Achievement Award. Laura also served on the leadership committee for Silicones Process R&D Natural Work Group for five years, most recently serving as co-chair. In addition, she has been involved with new hire onboarding within Dow Silicones Process R&D through official and unofficial mentoring, as well as having supervised a summer intern.

Outside of work and time spent with her family, Laura keeps herself very busy. Laura has served actively within her church in multiple roles, including financial recording and director of the handbell choir. She has coached 4-8th grade boys basketball program at St. John’s Lutheran School (Midland, MI) as well as served as the co-leader of the middle school youth group. Laura has also taken up the sport of curling since she moved to Michigan. She has volunteered as a coach and instructor for the Midland Curling Club as well as serving as the captain of her curling team. She is also the Publicity Chair for Mid-Michigan Local Section, building upon her previous involvement as liaison within AIChE’s National Executive Student Committee and leadership within the KSU AIChE Student Chapter during her undergraduate studies.

Normally, this award would be given at the annual Section Awards banquet, but this event had to be postponed. Laura will be recognized formally with a presentation of a plaque for this accomplishment later in the Fall 2020 when we are able to have a section meeting in person.

On behalf of the Mid-Michigan Local Section of AIChE and its awards committee, we would like congratulate Laura for this well-deserved accomplishment.