In this series, we sit down with a few of our leading scientists and engineers at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), a world-renowned materials research and development centre for Xerox with a successful track record of taking materials research from concept to market in a highly competitive technology environment. For the next few weeks, our featured innovators will share their passion for innovation and how their work is helping businesses in Canada (and around the world!) work better.
Describe your role
I am currently a Project Leader and I belong to the Process Engineering team. As part of the Scale-Up Engineering department here at XRCC, we are responsible for transferring lab-scale processes into manufacturing scale. This involves design and implementation at bench scale, almost always followed by rigorous troubleshooting and lengthy optimization experiments until we are ready to move the process to pilot scale where new challenges await. My role involves coordination of project activities and resources, communication to stakeholders, experiment planning and providing direction to meet objectives. Aside from the administrative responsibilities, I also spend much of my time in a lab coat, or with coveralls if we are running an experiment in the pilot plant. Working alongside the team and seeing firsthand how our materials are being developed and are performing ensures my best understanding of the technical challenges we sometimes face and how to proceed with solutions.
How long have you been with Xerox? What made you decide to join?
I was hired in June 2014 following my graduation from Chemical Engineering at McMaster University. My capstone project to finalize undergrad was plant design of an anionic polymerization of bimodal resin for toner, which was being led by XRCC’s very own. I came for a tour here as part of the course to gain insight on what a true scale-up facility looks like, which by the way there are very few in North America. XRCC caught my attention as being a prestigious research centre with only the brightest scientists and innovators, surrounded by endless labs and a very impressive three-storey pilot plant. I remember walking through the pilot plant with my group looking around at the many reactors, heat exchanges, and filter columns that we have been learning about in textbooks/lectures for years and thinking to myself how surreal it was to actually be standing there. It was at this point that I knew a job here would excite and motivate me every morning to go into work and allow me to use every aspect of my education while also learning exponentially and contributing as a chemical engineer to such a great community of professionals.
What inspires you to be innovative?
Being surrounded by mostly chemists (organic, synthetic & analytical) or engineers, many with 10+ years of service to XRCC and a passion for research really brings out the creativity and enthusiasm in me. I was intimidated at first, being a recent graduate, but the fellowship and encouragement I received from my colleagues inspired me to share all my ideas and contribute openly. As a research centre, we encounter challenges on every project and there is always a solution, it just takes collaboration and open-mindedness to think outside the box and try new ideas. Brainstorming across an interdisciplinary team generates ideas from different backgrounds, which feed on each other and stem into possibilities that would not have been there if we were all engineers or all scientists. Science is always improving and the way we approach new problems must take into account the breakthroughs, techniques and materials that we work so hard develop. I like to challenge what can’t be done and find an easier or more efficient way of doing things, which also applies to the science we do here at XRCC. This year I submitted three invention disclosures, two of which will be patented and one which will be trade secret; this was really exciting for me.
What projects are you excited to be working on?
My main project focuses on the development and production of silver nanoparticles which are used as a key ingredient for various conductive inks, which each have their own project that I am lucky to also be involved with. We formulate silver nanoparticle conductive inks for clients interested in printed electronics such as RFIDs and sensors. These inks are part of our electronic materials business that we have been growing over the past few years and it really picked up in 2015. This is an exciting opportunity because we are competing with other companies to put a benchmark ink on the market for specialized applications, which have potential for large supply contracts.
What are your passions in life? How do you spend your free time?
Growing up, I spent much of my time playing team sports. I had soccer 4 nights a week throughout my teen years, as well as high school basketball and football; although I’ll admit those two were not my strong suit. I also picked up the guitar ten years ago and I still enjoy playing it in my leisure time. I definitely love to take things apart and see how they work then challenge myself to put it back together no matter how complex it might me, which has always been a show of the engineer in me. I’ve travelled to Germany, Holland, Dominican Republic, and spent a summer in Ecuador, where half my roots are from. Travelling is a something I have not made enough time for recently and I am planning to change that in the next couple of years with trips to see as many of the 10 ancient civilizations that I possibly can.