Ushma Patel, 26, was born in India and came to the United States in 2014 to further her education. Patel earned an associate degree in biomedical sciences and health care from Cumberland County College and a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
After graduating, she began working for Comar LLC as a quality technician I in 2020, quality technician III in 2021, then quality engineer in 2022.
"My decision to begin my professional career in the plastics industry was sparked in part by a member of my family who is employed at Comar. As I have always had an interest in the medical device sector, the fact that Comar makes medical devices/dispensaries in addition to other plastic components made it possible for both of these paths to align," she said.
"As a result of my work at Comar, I have had the opportunity to broaden my practical expertise in the manufacturing and plastics industries, as well as the medical device industry, as the company continues to expand its operations in this market," Patel added.
At the packaging and medical device company in Buena, N.J., Patel promotes sustainable practices such as advocating for renewable energy sources, encouraging the adoption of waste reduction and recycling programs, and promoting the use of eco-friendly materials and production methods.
"By championing sustainable practices within the workplace," Patel said, "I have the ability to help to reduce the impact of manufacturing on the environment."
In her spare time, Patel volunteers with environmental efforts such as picking up litter and cleaning up beaches and rivers.
Read about more of our 2023 Rising Stars
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?
Patel: As a professional working in the plastics manufacturing industry, my philosophy related to plastics and sustainability prioritizes the reduction of waste and pollution caused by plastic products. Meaning committing to the development and use of sustainable materials and processes and promoting the circular economy to ensure that plastics are reused and recycled instead of being discarded.
To achieve sustainability in plastics manufacturing, I believe one should advocate for responsible consumption and production, which includes reducing the use of single-use plastics and encouraging consumers to choose environmentally friendly options. Additionally, it is essential to recognize the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and human health and take steps to mitigate these effects. Ultimately, the goal should be to ensure that plastics can continue to be a useful material while minimizing their negative impacts on the planet.
Support sustainable products: I look for products made from sustainable materials, such as bioplastics or recycled plastics. I support companies that are committed to reducing their plastic waste and implementing sustainable practices.
Educate others: I am committed to spreading awareness about the importance of reducing plastic waste and encouraging others to take action. Talk to your friends, family and community members about ways to reduce their plastic consumption.
Advocate for change: I support legislation that promotes sustainable practices and reduces plastic waste. I use my voice to push for change at the local, national and global levels.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Patel: As a society, we use plastic products in our daily routine and barely has thought about the entire process from manufacturing to packaging and delivery. After starting work at Comar, I have experienced and realized numerous products that my family and I have used were produced by Comar. I love the fact that plastic material has been used in many forms, whether it is for household, nutrition, industrial equipment, medical devices/dispensaries or products used in the pharmaceuticals industry.
There has been many research and innovations currently taking place, which will be a great addition to the growth of the industry. Personally, as an individual coming from a biomedical educational background, the way plastics materials have been used in different forms in different industries, especially [the] medical device industry, really surprise me and makes me wonder about the great innovations that were taken place and will come in the future will help grow both plastics and medical device industries.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Patel: As a CEO, I would do the following:
• Engage with and get to know employees on the "front lines" working to get product out of the door and deliver it to the customer.
• Promote a culture where employee feedback is prioritized and implemented.
• Create opportunities for employees to collaborate cross-functionally on initiatives or social events. This can be accomplished by encouraging events that engage teams from a different department, such as social/fun events, educational events, lunch and learn events, lesson learn events, problem-solving [and] critical thinking workshops, focus groups to address and come up with solutions for issues.
• Receive feedback from each employee and develop an implementation plan to address feedback.