Nathan Rader-Edkin, 29, earned an associate degree in business management and a bachelor's degree in plastics and polymer engineering technology from Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Pennsylvania State University, in Williamsport, Pa. His first job post-graduation was as a molding process engineer for Becton, Dickinson and Co. in Broken Bow, Neb.
"Injection molding always was my favorite during undergraduate school," he said. "I knew I wanted to do injection molding, but I was not sure what industry I wanted to go in. I knew the medical device industry was the perfect starting point."
Rader-Edkin became a senior molding engineer in Franklin Lakes, N.J., in June 2021, then moved back to PCT to be named program manager for the Plastics Innovation and Resource Center in April 2022.
"My greatest achievement in my professional career is coming back to my alma mater to use my skills of teaching and training to not only assist the students that attend Penn College but to also have the opportunity to upskill the workforce of current plastic companies through workshops or customized trainings for injection molding."
"[Rader-Edkin's] ability to communicate complex technical concepts in simple terms has made him an effective instructor, and his enthusiasm for the industry has inspired many employees and students to pursue careers in plastics engineering," said Logan Tate, engineering project manager at Alltrista Plastics LLC.
Rader-Edkin is also a board member for the Society of Plastics Engineers' Medical Plastics division.
"I'm confident that in his role there [at PCT] he's inspiring and guiding the next generation of plastics engineers," said Mercedes Landazuri, market insight manager for Ampacet Corp., who met Rader-Edkin when he was a junior at PCT. "Nathan Rader-Edkin isn't just a Rising Star; he's a builder of rising stars."
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Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Rader-Edkin: The current challenge at work and specifically in the plastics industry is educating the general public about "What is a plastic?" [or] "What is a polymer?" Most people have no idea what these answers are. They automatically think of a drinking straw or plastic bag. They don't think about all the different polymers around them. So, it's educating them on what they are but also educating them on how important recycling, sustainability and the circular economy are to companies and individuals and most importantly the Earth.
It is important to instill that plastics are not the enemy; they are indeed crucial to our lives and that the plastic pollution problem is a human problem. The solution to the plastic pollution problem must be derived from both industry, government and individual accountability.
Q: What steps have you taken to advance in your career?
Rader-Edkin: I have looked at learning more about all five processes and trying to become an expert in three of them. Here at Penn College, I have the opportunity to work with R&D projects that often include different plastic manufacturing processes. For example, I might compound a certain material and then take that compound and injection mold it into ASTM test specimens, then I will test the specimens and [interpret] the data for the client. This allows me to work with a variety of materials and manufacturing processes to expand my skills and advance my career.
Q: What is your philosophy related to plastics and sustainability? What steps have you taken to improve plastics' sustainability, either in work, your community or personal life?
Rader-Edkin: I think plastics and sustainability go hand in hand. To be sustainable, we have to tackle the plastics pollution problem, not just be going "carbon-neutral," which has quickly become the most popular buzzword as of late. The steps I have taken is picking up plastic waste or waste in general when I see it on the ground. But I also have taken the time to wash out my plastic or take off the label because I know that it often makes it difficult for recycling to happen if things are contaminated.