MII Alumni Highlights: Nick Shephard
Nick Shephard, a Senior Fellow at Dow Chemical, graduated from Virginia Tech in 1995 with a degree in Materials Science and Engineering. He was advised by J.P. Wightman. Below he tells the story of how his graduate experience with CASS (the Center for Adhesive and Sealant Science, which eventually evolved into what we know as MII) influenced his career.
"As a young chemist working at Dow Corning, I was offered a chance to go back to graduate school. One of my colleagues from Dow Corning, George Gant, was the president of the Adhesive and Sealant Council at that time. He suggested I check out Virginia Tech and the Center for Adhesive and Sealant Science. I was really interested in the multidisciplinary degree program. My undergraduate degree was in chemistry, but I really wanted to focus on engineering mechanics and adhesion science. At first glance, the professors at VT were amazing. It was easy to see they truly believed in what they were doing. Choosing VT was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The CASS program allowed me to seamlessly study polymer chemistry, surface chemistry, engineering design and fracture mechanics. Where else could I get access to a fully equipped machine shop and million dollar surface analysis equipment on the same day?
"Dr. Wightman inspired our research, but he also taught us how to present our work in a way that is understandable and entertaining. We were lucky to travel to numerous conferences to present our work. That is when I became associated with the Adhesion Society. The AS annual meeting brought professors, industrial scientists and government researchers together to share our interest in adhesion phenomena. I have maintained fruitful relationships from that interaction and continue my involvement with the Adhesion Society, currently serving as vice-president.
"27 years later, I work at Dow Chemical and hold the title 'Senior Fellow.' But my work is still the same as always, exploring adhesion related problems across a wide range of applications and materials from “bath tub” caulk, to solar panels, pacemakers, electric vehicle batteries and high rise buildings. I am thankful to have the opportunity to travel the globe and meet amazing people along the way.
"I often reflect on the great experience I had on the campus of VT. My research committee, Jim Wightman, Dave Dillard, Tom Ward, Garth Wilkes and Harry Gibson, were rock stars of their field. More importantly, they were excellent teachers and wonderful people. I thank them for care they took to prepare me for an amazing career."