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Cartoon of a chemist in a lab.

Tackling global issues and durable cell phones. It’s all in a day’s work for an H.B. Fuller chemist.

Posted 03/09/2017 by ,

I’m visiting a group of ninth-graders this afternoon to discuss STEM careers and my job as a chemist. To prepare, I think about what my typical day looks like, as well as the bigger picture – my contribution to the organization and, ultimately, to products that touch our lives every day.
 
To a ninth-grader memorizing periodic tables and balancing equations, being a chemist may not seem terribly creative. But in reality, the H.B. Fuller adhesives I develop do some impressive things. Often, they help to make everyday products faster, cheaper, lighter, smarter and greener. How can I best share my passion for my work? How can I make it relevant – even exciting—to a student? I think about what I do.
 

I Connect Research to Results.

I’m a troubleshooter. My job is all about solving problems, and my greatest reward is when things come together – literally and figuratively, whether it takes two days or two years. The process requires input from a lot of players, from sales reps to engineers to line supervisors, and it generally starts with a problem or challenge.
 
Here’s an example close to a teen’s heart. Cell phones. Recently the electronics industry asked us to come up with a strong, clean-dispensing adhesive. Electronics often are exposed to extreme temperatures and to harsh chemicals, like sweat and suntan lotion. Clean application is important because in production, a drop of spilled adhesive can damage expensive devices.
 
Here’s where chemistry gets creative. By changing the delivery system of a product designed for automobile trim, we were able to provide our customer with a film adhesive that provides a strong bond and can withstand harsh conditions. Problem solved.
 

I Connect Everyday Products with the Common Good.

Water scarcity is a global issue. There is a lot of pressure on the world’s water supply, and as many as 780 million people may not have access to safe water. What could an H.B. Fuller chemist possibly have to do with addressing water scarcity? Quite a bit. Water purification plays a key role in meeting supply demands, and filters that enable purification rely on high-performing adhesives.
 
Sustainability also is a global concern. In fact, some of our biggest challenges revolve around developing adhesives composed of renewable raw materials or adhesives that enable more sustainable production by using less product, energy or material. The solutions to these challenges begin in the lab.
 

I Connect Young Minds to Career Opportunities.

I’m one of many H.B. Fuller chemists who enjoys sharing my job with students.  Sometimes I also work with educators to develop experiments demonstrating what a “glue chemist” does in the lab.
 
For example, I may have students compare the properties and performance of three water-based adhesives by conducting tests that measure things like viscosity, tackiness and acidity, and then determining what they could be used for. I also explain a glue chemist’s biggest challenge – creating in a small lab tests to mimic a customer’s plant operations – where they may, for example, be running 100 cereal boxes on a line in one minute! This is definitely not a desk job.
 
I think I’m ready for my presentation. I have relatable examples, I have a passion for what I do, and I have 20 minutes to get there.
 
I’m an H.B Fuller chemist, and #IAMConnectingWhatMatters. Follow our hashtag on social media for other stories. If you are interested in working anywhere in the world for H.B. Fuller you can find out more here. 
 

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