Allen Jonathan Roman's parents grew up in Iztapalapa, Mexico, where an earthquake hit in 1985 and left the Mexico City neighborhood with damaged buildings and homes. The earthquake left his father unable to work and attend school, so he came to the United States — with no money, no education and no knowledge of the English language, Roman said — and found a job in a restaurant. Roman's mother eventually left for the U.S., too.
Roman's father got a factory job as a machine operator and took community classes to improve his chances for a promotion.
"I vividly remember my mother taking us to Oakton Community College [in Illinois], where my father would take courses so that we could spend time with him in our breaks, never breaking the family bond. We would sit and keep busy in the communal areas and then would head back home late at night to finally rest," said Roman, who was raised in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood.
"My sister and I will always continue fighting for success in our profession, but something that my parents have instilled within us is to also fight for those around us. For that reason, my sister and I, in addition to our profession, are actively involved within our community," he added.
Roman studied at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he earned his bachelor's degree in biological systems engineering, machinery systems, and master's degree in mechanical engineering. He is also working on his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering, with the expected graduation of September 2023.
As an undergraduate engineering researcher at UW–Madison's Polymer Engineering Center, Roman was exposed to plastics: "I helped with experiments to better understand the dispersion behavior of glass fibers within injection molded parts and soon continued designing a rheometer, which would be used by Bosch to conduct fundamental experiments to further understand fiber evolution during polymer processing events."
Roman was appointed chief engineer at the Polymer Engineering Center in 2019, which he considers a career highlight.