Elvis Cudjoe, 32
Senior Research and Development Engineer, Avient Corp.
After graduating from Hiram College with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and from Case Western Reserve University with a doctorate in macromolecular science and engineering, Elvis Cudjoe joined Avon Lake, Ohio-based Avient Corp.
"I was interested in the industry as I had spent five years in graduate school studying polymers, and after several article publications as well as patents, I was unfulfilled with what I was doing as I couldn't see the immediate impact," said the senior research and development engineer from Accra, Ghana. "Joining a plastic company in the industry seemed to be the next step as being involved in innovation and bringing ideas to life for the everyday consumer was going to be fulfilling."
Cudjoe said the packaging market is of "significant interest" due to developments in sustainability.
"Over the years, the packaging segment has been identified as a big contributor to environmental pollution," he said. "The response and commitment from a lot of companies, Avient included, has been positive. Being involved and participating in creating new technologies that address these problems not only makes this market segment interesting but also fulfills the need for a change in current practices."
His greatest professional achievement so far has been leading a project past a major hurdle.
"The project required the use of a hazardous material and, being a part of a company where safety is a significant part of our identity, we needed to make sure we could handle this material safely and effectively while utilizing it in our manufacturing process," Cudjoe said. "Myself and a few associates had to think outside the box to create a mechanism that would allow as to handle the material prior to and during manufacturing.
"This process required working with different subject matter experts in a timely fashion to get to the end goal. This solution not only ensured we were able to work on this project but it has provided the groundwork for scaling up this solution and the significant success of the technology for our customers and company."
Cudjoe is involved in the Society of Plastics Engineers, American Chemical Society and the local chapter of United Way.
"In the industry, I participate in conferences and trade shows organized by SPE in order to stay well informed about the industry. In the community, I actively participate in our United Way outreach activities to support and provide for the less fortunate in our local communities," he said. "In addition, I personally, along with other scientists, visit local middle and high schools to teach them about plastics. We engage with them through hands-on experiments, which tend to be quite exciting, informative and educational."
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Cudjoe: The rate at which change occurs in the plastic industry surprises me. Consumer demand tends to drive these changes. As such, we have to be flexible to meet those demands as they happen. For example, the pandemic had an effect on consumer behavior when it came to consumable items off the shelf. Consumers were purchasing food and storing them longer than usual, hence we had to pivot as an industry to ensure that our technologies that helped preserve food in plastic containers were good enough to give the needed extended shelf life. It really proved the importance and power of plastics.
Q: What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
Cudjoe: By initiating and creating the environment to have the difficult conversation around race, gender, age, etc. In addition to having those conversations, we need to actively put measures such as continued education, equal opportunities, etc., in place to ensure that it's not just a conversation but rather a conversation backed with action. The key thing is to make sure D&I does not become a buzzword without action. A lot of industries are starting to have a conversation around it, however, actions will always speak louder than words or conversations.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Cudjoe: Time is precious so make sure whatever you spend it on, it's rewarding and impactful as you will never be able to recover it.