Associate research scientist,
Dow Chemical (China) Co. Ltd.
Lucy Bai, a 36-year-old associate research scientist at Dow Chemical (China) Co. Ltd., said her ties to the polymer industry started when she was a little girl.
“My first toy was a plastic doll,” she said, “Unlike other toys, it was light, didn't break easily, could go into water, had vibrant colors, and felt nice with a touch of elasticity. I was curious why the material was so different.
“When I grew up, I studied chemical engineering in college, amazed by the magic of chemistry, and continued to pursue my master's and Ph.D. degrees in the field.”
Hoping to turn her knowledge into real technology and products, she joined the industry in 2008. She worked for Bayer MaterialScience (China) Co. Ltd for four years, during which time she was promoted twice. She has been with Dow Chemical (China) since 2011. With a recent promotion to her current role of associate research scientist, she now works on R&D of polyurethane-based adhesives for flexible packaging.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Bai: My first plastic job was at Bayer, where I was responsible for the product development of high performance UV curable coatings. I was very interested in this industry, not just because plastics are literally everywhere in our life, [but] more importantly, because I believe I can make contributions in developing the right plastics product[s] while minimizing the impact to the environment.
Q: What was your greatest achievement?
Bai: The polyurethane dispersion project is my greatest achievement with innovation deliverables which resulted in four filed patents. In addition, the project is very complex and involves a lot of resources from different functions and geographies. Currently, this project has been successfully moved from scale up to [the] business decision stage. I am glad that I significantly grew my skills in terms of project management, communication and collaboration, and critical decision making through leading this project.
Q: What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Bai: In a recent effort to develop coefficient of friction (COF) neutral solvent-free adhesives, I was able to quickly develop a grade that meets all performance targets. However, during the scale up process, it was found out that there was an unexpected raw material batch variance, which resulted in a three-month delay of the project. From this failure, what I learned was, as a product development scientist, science is not everything. We would still have to consider multiple facets of the entire product development process!
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Bai: To continue to strengthen the understandings of the packaging industry and its market trend, and to well combine with my technical expertise in polyurethane chemistry.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Bai: Green technology. I believe sustainability will play a pivotal role in the future of the packaging industry.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Bai: Plastic is everywhere in our daily life and it is strong capable to meet versatile requirements, and it has big potential to be used in more wide and challenging fields.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Bai: Push hard on innovation and new technology.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Bai: Be innovative, open and flexible to any opportunities; It is fun to work with polymers!
Q: What associations do you belong to or actively participate in?
Bai: The China Polyurethane Industry Association and the China National Adhesives Industry Association.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Bai: Innovation. Because innovation is the catalyst for sustainable growth. Innovation can be from many aspects; it can be technology innovation, organizational innovation, business model innovation, as well as customer offering solution innovation, etc.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Bai: Kalyan Sehanobish, a senior fellow from Dow, is my mentor.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Bai: I enjoy being a scientist and technologist. My goal is to be a subject matter expert in polymers technical in the future.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Bai: During my leisure time, I enjoy reading and traveling with family. I also play badminton.