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Leadership Seminar Series on Wednesdays

2:30 - 3:20pm:
Seminar in Physics Astronomy Auditorium (PAA), A114.
Reception to follow in Benson Hall Lobby. 


Speaker and Lecture Title

Oct. 1

Mirna Mujacic

B.S. '00, Ph.D. '06

Senior Scientist, Amgen

“Drug Making: From Benson Hall to Biotech"
A primer on a drug development process for bio-therapeutics and where chemical engineers fit in. 

Mirna Mujacic graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2000. She then joined the Department of Bioengineering at UW in 2001 as a graduate student. Mirna received her Ph.D. in 2006 under the guidance of Dr. François Baneyx. Since graduation, she has worked in process development division of local biotechnology companies. Mirna was with ZymoGenetics from 2007-2008 and with Amgen from 2008. She is currently a Senior Scientist in the Cell Sciences and Technology department at Amgen with a focus on development of host cell-lines for production of bio-therapeutics.

Oct. 8

John Smolik

B.S. '71

CEO, Plymouth Soundings, LLC

“Success... What Does a ChemE Degree Have to Do with It?"
This talk will explore what Mr. Smolik has learned about the value of his Chemical Engineering degree, and his experiences with success and failure.  He will use various examples from his career to highlight the skills and behaviors that he has found to be critical for success.

John Smolik has had a long and productive career in a diverse set of fields including biopharmaceuticals, biomedical and manufacturing. John received his BS from UW in Chemical Engineering in 1971 and his MBA from the University of Connecticut in 1976. John started his career at Pfizer as a production supervisor. Following that, he worked at Corning, Genencor, Lipogen and Phyton technologies, plus many other companies. He’s held positions ranging from analysts to directors of manufacturing and marketing and has been a consultant. John has also founded two companies, Genase and Provectus (biopharmaceuticals). Currently, John is the CEO of Plymouth Soundings, a company that works with for-profit, nonprofit, and quasi-governmental agencies to help them benefit from Tax Credit Financing programs.


John Huckabay

Managing Director, ChemAlum Ltd.

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"
This will be a seminar covering some of the challenges students will run into in the work world and expectations of employers.  Students will also get inside information on places that have been trip falls of many before them.  With a bit of luck and skill, the hope is for students to avoid some of them.

John Huckabay has had a successful career in the chemicals business and has worked in chemical plants since he was 15 years old. John attended UW and ChemE from 1970 – 1975. His career started at Imperial West Chemical in 1975 as a plant operator. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and eventually served as Vice President at Imperial West Chemical and again at Pioneer Chlor-Alkali. John then took his experience oversees and served as a consultant to Alusaf South Africa. This started a trend of working overseas and he now serves as the managing director of ChemAlum Ltd. which has multiple plants in the Middle East and beyond. In this position John manages all steps in a multi-product plant that producing aluminum based chemicals. This includes raw material procurement, operations, expansions, HSE, research, waste and energy management.

Oct. 22

Scott Roberts

Ph.D. '74

Retired - Shell Oil Company

"Be a Learner, Not a Knower"
During Dr. Roberts’ 35 years with Shell he benefitted more from being a fast learner than a knower.  The most helpful skills he developed include listening and writing, holding creative tension, technical breadth, being optimistic and patient.  These attributes especially helped him to succeed in unfamiliar roles and challenges.  They also helped him find, encourage and enable true experts to step up and deliver.  He’ll elaborate using some examples from his career.
     1. Develop efficient heat exchanger for oil shale
     2. Reduce volatile emissions from simple, remote crude oil tanks
     3. Remove aromatics from gas oils efficiently
     4. Manage response to a massive light hydrocarbon leak
     5. Develop scale up plan for Shell Coal Gasification Process
     6. As the new Risk Manager, improve our margins
     7. Recommend a winning polypropylene business strategy
     8. Improve our epoxy resins business profitability
     9. Improve manufacturing cost performance


Dr. Roberts grew up in Tucson, Arizona and earned a BS from U of Arizona and a PhD from U of Washington, both in Chemical Engineering.  He retired from Royal Dutch Shell in 2008 after working 35 years in their oil, synfuels and chemicals businesses.  His career ranged from technical assignments in research and engineering to business management roles in supply, trading and chemicals to senior management roles such as President of Shell Mexico, VP Global Lower Olefins business, EVP Global Chemicals Manufacturing and VP NW Europe Manufacturing.  Dr. Roberts and his wife have lived and worked in 5 states as well as in Costa Rica, Mexico, England and Holland.   He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Amigos de las Americas and as a member of the UW ChemE advisory board.  His passions include spending time in Italy and Latin America, investing and trading, hiking, reading and photography. 

Oct. 29

James Chang

Ph.D. '86

CEO, TaiMed Biologics

"Career Paths in Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Industries: A Chemical Engineer's Perspective"
Careers, like the chemical engineering curriculum, are evolving in the ever-changing economic landscape and global competition.  The biotech industry worldwide has been growing at a steady pace for the last 30 years and offers many exciting opportunities for chemical engineers. Chemical engineers use both math and science to develop economical solutions to technical problems.  Technical skills aside, they must possess a  logical mind, a clarity of thinking and problem solving capabilities developed through rigorous engineering training, which in turn better prepare them for many challenges in pharma/biotech product and process development.  I'll provide some insight on how a chemical engineer can succeed from my 25 years’ experience in this field.


James Chang is the CEO of TaiMed Biologics, a publicly traded company in Taiwan with a U.S. subsidiary. TaiMed focuses on developing monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS infection.  He started his career at Procter & Gamble, and later joined Allergan where he played a key role in BOTOX® development.  James received his Ph.D. from UW in 1986.

Nov. 5

Geoff Stensland

B.S. '81

President, ChemE Solutions, Inc.

"To R&D and Back Again in Several Interesting Steps!"
Curiosity drives innovation in engineering, allowing us the opportunity to further improve outcomes. Curiosity comes into play for me when researching and discovering how a process works and resolving how, from a process engineering point of view, it can be improved.

I have been fortunate to have a very interesting career centered on the identification of problems related to water and air treatment and finding desirable and cost effective solutions. My work engages public and private clients with the goal of minimizing environmental impacts and ensuring regulatory compliance. On a daily basis I leverage my expertise and curiosity to solve problems created directly or indirectly by a client’s operations.  Along the path, new processes and technologies may be discovered.   

My presentation for the U.W. School of Engineering will focus on several of the projects I have worked on through my career and how they enhanced my knowledge and pointed me in new and sometimes very interesting directions.


During the past 30 years Geoff Stensland (B.S. Chemical Engineering ‘81), held several positions in R&D, Sales and Marketing working with organizations such as GE, Honeywell, and Buckman Labs. The past ten years Geoff has been principal of his own is consulting chemical engineering and process chemical company, ChemE Solutions Inc., based here in the Northwest.  His current focus is on biogas desulfurization, industrial and municipal air treatment, and electro chemistry.  In his spare time he plays competitive badminton, skis, bikes and travels.

Nov. 12

Young Alumni Panel
During this panel, four alumni, whom all graduated within the past ten years, will share helpful early career tips and advice. Topics will include how to secure a job, communication, college success strategies, and overcoming challenges.

Margaret Donegan-Ryan: Senior Associate, Environ (B.S.'09)
Margaret Donegan-Ryan was born in Canada and grew up in Ireland and then the Seattle suburbs.  She graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2009.  Following graduation, she worked for a chemical distributor for a year before leaving to pursue a more challenging role.  She is currently a Senior Associate at ENVIRON International Corporation, specializing in air quality consulting services (3+ years).  As an air quality consultant, she works on projects focused in air quality permitting and regulatory compliance, environmental due diligence, and litigation support. Her responsibilities include interpretation of local, State and Federal regulations, air quality dispersion modeling, hazardous and dangerous waste monitoring and reporting, developing emission inventories, and conducting contaminated site assessments. Her projects span a variety of industries, including wood products manufacturing facilities, transfer facilities, sulfur processing facilities, carbon fiber manufacturers, lead-zinc mines, silicon and oil refineries, electrical generation facilities, and primarily, offshore oil and gas development projects.  Margaret lives in Seattle and enjoys traveling, cooking, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her friends and family.

Paul Roeter: Project Manager, CBRE (B.S.'08)
Paul Roeter graduated with a BS degree in Chemical Engineering in June 2008 and immediately took a month long trip traveling through Europe with friends. His career began at Chevron working in the oil fields of central California where he was recruited as a Facilities Engineer. The experiences at Chevron taught him valuable hands on lessons in engineering design, construction and project management. He also applied many of the technical aspects of his Chem E degree to real life situations and projects. Over his four years at Chevron, Paul realized his passion for project management and construction and tailored his career to get experience on projects with diverse project teams and complex logistics. He also obtained the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential during this time. Paul decided in 2012 to move back to Washington with his family and began working at SNC Lavalin Constructors Inc as a Process / Proposal Engineer. During his one and a half years working there, he provided front end engineering, specification development and led engineering teams on combined cycle power plant proposals and studies. In early 2014, Paul decided to pursue his passion in project management and construction while switching industries to commercial real estate by accepting a job as a Project Manager at CB Richard Ellis on the Microsoft account. His current role includes managing projects and teams on complex commercial projects replacing and upgrading infrastructure on the Microsoft campus. Long term, Paul plans to pursue commercial real estate development and is currently completing the University of Washington's Certificate in Commercial Real Estate program.

Andrew Steiner: Sr. Business Analyst IT, The Gates Foundation (B.S.'07)
Andy graduated with his BS in Chemical Engineering in ’07 and a BS in Economics in ’08.  After graduating he joined Accenture as a technology and systems integration consultant.  He spent 4 years working with various Seattle based clients in Business Analysis, Quality Assurance and Project Management capacities.  He then joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a Senior Business Analyst in IT focusing on the internal investment processes and systems (process engineering with people and computers instead of chemicals and equipment).  He just had a daughter, so in his now minimal spare time, he enjoys wakeboarding, anything in the mountains and exploring Seattle neighborhoods for delicious food and drink!

David Gasperino: Thermal-Fluids Modeling Engineer, Intellectual Ventures (B.S.'03)
David Gasperino graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in chemical engineering in 2003, and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2008.  David’s research in graduate school focused on the design and application of computational models to understand melt and solution crystal growth phenomena.  His background in computational chemical engineering led him to a job in industry within the corporate R&D group at Cargill Inc. in 2008, where he gained a rich set of experiences in the application of chemical engineering principles and computational power to solve a wide variety of real-world problems. A desire to move back west brought David to Intellectual Ventures Laboratory in Bellevue, where he has worked since 2012 with the Global Good Fund to invent, develop, and deploy commercially-viable technologies that improve life in developing countries.

Nov. 19

Paul Boys

B.S. '68, M.S. '75

Retired, Supervisory Engineer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"Opportunities for Chemical Engineers at EPA and the U.S Public Health Service"
Paul Boys held a robust and successful career as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and a founding member of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Through his seminar, opportunities for chemical engineers in the public sector will be highlighted.  While somewhat of an untraditional route for chemical engineers, a career as a civil servant offered Paul fascinating opportunities such as removing lead from gasoline and developing standards of performance for new stationary sources. Many skills are required for a successful career, including technical competency, report writing proficiency, teamwork and interpersonal communication.  Paul will provide examples of how to utilize these skills in engineering careers within the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Public Health Service.


Paul was born in Bellingham, WA, and grew up in Wenatchee.  He graduated from the University of Washington in 1968 with a BS degree in Chemical Engineering.  Paul earned his Master’s in Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University, and later, upon returning to Seattle he received a Master’s degree from the UW’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department in Air and Water Resource Management.

Paul’s career began as a refinery engineer for Chevron in 1968.  Two years later he became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, assigned to the National Air Pollution Control Administration (NAPCA).  At this time, the Environmental Protection Agency was created and the NAPCA became part of EPA.  For four years, Paul developed air pollution emission standards for new industrial facilities.  He was also involved in a study of the technical and economic impact of removing lead from gasoline, which eventually resulted in the conversion to unleaded gasoline.

Paul returned to Seattle and transferred to the EPA Region 10 where he provided technical support to the air program.  Responsibilities included conducting compliance inspections, performing analyses of air pollution control technologies, evaluating requests for alternative monitoring and testing requirements, reviewing stack test plans and reports, and assisting with the review of state and local agency air programs. 

As one of the founding members of EPA, Paul was involved in the early days of basic inspector training; he provided technical support to the new Criminal Investigation Division, and conducted multi-media inspections.  After 30 years Paul retired from the Public Health Service.  He was immediately hired by EPA Region 10 to continue providing expert technical support to the air program where he remained for 11 years.  Paul represented Region 10 on the national Field Operations Group.  He is the second vice-chairperson of the Regional Incident Coordination Team and the back-up Region 10 Response Support Corps Coordinator.

Paul retired a second and final time from EPA in July 20111 and now enjoys biking, hiking, travelling the United States and officiating high school volleyball.

Nov. 26

No Class -- Happy Holiday!

Dec. 3

Richard Hyman

B.S. '78

Vice President of Business Development, NVIDIA

"Building a career with flexibility and resilience while maintaining a balance in life"
This talk will explore my career path that traveled from engineering at Hanford to business management in Silicon Valley. The topics covered will include leadership, working in teams, real examples of ethics choices, and how events have shaped my career and life. How the foundational education of Chemical Engineering has helped me make transitions easier in unforeseen ways. And most importantly, how I worked to stay relevant in a changing world. 


- a nuclear safety engineer working through regulatory compliance of nuclear fuel 
- a process engineer at an aluminum plant.
- a graduate student
- a SW engineer developing IC design Tools
- Sales engineer for various semiconductor companies
- Sales Director for ECAD company
- Vice president of marketing
- Vice president of sales
- CEO of a startup in Silicon Valley
- Vice president of business development

Dec. 10

No Class - Final's Week


Recommended Preparation
The course is intended for undergraduate and graduate students of chemical engineering.

Class Assignments and Grading
The class will be graded credit/no credit. Attendance is required at all class meetings; only excused absences will be permitted. An excused absence must be approved by the instructor prior to the missed class.

Engineering Elective Credit
This class counts as an engineering elective credit.

The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation contact the Disability Services Office at least ten days in advance at: 206) 543-6450/V, (206) 543-6452/TTY, (206) 685-7264 (FAX), or