Continuing a Legacy of Inspirational Leadership – Supporting Young Professionals

Dr. John C. Chen was recognized throughout his career for his steadfast commitment to the next generation of chemical engineers in both industry and academia. One of those young professionals, Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, is now, Dean, College of Engineering – UC Davis. She, along with Kathy Chen, John’s wife, hosted a virtual coffee chat via Zoom with past Chen Awardees: Donna Bryant (2018), Colin Young (2018) and Julia Lin (2019).

Kathy opened the conversation by sharing her hope that Donna, Colin and Julia will stay active and involved in AIChE. By being active members, like John was, they will each embrace every opportunity to learn, grow and give back to AIChE.

Donna is the Senior Process Engineer with Johnson Matthey in Boston, MA. She shared her gratitude for the variety of internships as it helped shape her career. As one of the two inaugural recipients of the Chen Award, she participated in leadership development programming and received counsel from AIChE senior members.

As a college freshman, Colin didn’t think that he was a science or math guy. Today, he’s part of a team at Ambry Genetics in Salt Lake City classifying variants of uncertain significance with an emphasis in breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility genes. A one-time offer to help at a local AIChE event turned into an ongoing volunteer role. Colin was Past Chair of the AIChE Young Professionals Committee in 2018.  
John’s willingness to highlight a young, female chemical engineer gave me recognition early on in the profession and I am forever grateful to his support. - Dean Curtis
Julia was recognized while still in her final year of college. She’s about to celebrate one year as the Analytical Chemist with Motiva in Port Arthur, TX. Her role focuses on modeling to predict inlet / outlet and the day-to-day production.  

Everyone enjoyed hearing Dean Curtis share how at a conference early in her career, John specifically took the time to introduce her to the attendees, even though that wasn’t the norm. “John’s willingness to highlight a young, female chemical engineer gave me recognition early on in the profession and I am forever grateful to his support."

As an educator and his longtime professional service to AIChE, John was recognized for his inspirational leadership. It was a joy to celebrate John’s legacy and passion for leadership by chatting with the first three Chen awardees. Their journeys will continue John’s impact on the chemical engineering profession, and we look forward to hearing what is next as they progress in their careers.

Join our Founding Donors with a gift to the John C. Chen Endowment, your support will provide scholarship funds in perpetuity and the leadership development training of two selected young professional members of AIChE annually. For more information about this program and ways to give, please contact Natalie Krauser, at