UWF degree and year of graduation:
MA Mathematics, ’92
As you look back at your days at UWF, describe your best memory.
I really enjoyed doing an independent study with Raid Amin because he has an enthusiasm for applying statistical methods to industrial processes. There were many other outstanding teachers in the Applied Statistics and Math Departments who I had the privilege of meeting. A few years back, I was an adjunct instructor in the Engineering Technology Department and this gave me a great appreciation for how difficult it is to be a good teacher.
While you were at UWF, what did you think was its most outstanding and/or unique quality?
As a graduate student, the small class sizes allowed me to get to know and to work with the professors. The faculty members in the Statistics Department were very good at understanding both the application, as well as the theory of statistical methods.
As you reflect, did your education at UWF have an impact on where you are today?
Definitely. When I graduated with my engineering degree from the University of Michigan in 1978, I was not equipped to look at data and extract meaningful information. When I came to work at Monsanto in Pensacola in nylon manufacturing, I learned that this was a field where improvements were driven less by fundamental knowledge and more by trial and error testing. So, I became interested in learning more about statistics and experimental methods and started taking classes at UWF. Midway through my degree program, I was transferred with Monsanto to New Orleans, and surprised to find out that they didn’t have a night-time program for statistics. I moved back to Pensacola 10 years later and was able to take advantage of UWF’s program. It has been enormously useful. I enjoy using experimentation and data analysis techniques to identify new and better ways of operating chemical processes, so my master’s degree in statistics has made a big difference in my ability to succeed as an engineer.
Describe what you do/did professionally, including the type of company you work for.
I work for Huntsman Company, in the Performance Products Division. Huntsman is an international chemical company that does more than $10 billion dollars in sales annually, with a relatively small presence (seven employees) in Pensacola. I work within a group which manufactures maleic-anhydride, as well as licensing our technology in plants around the world. I work in the manufacturing technology group, which is located in Pensacola but supports operating plants in two U.S. locations, as well as seven overseas locations. My job is to ensure we are operating our plants as economically as possible, which means minimizing raw material and energy consumption, while meeting current and future customer needs. Fortunately for our business growth, meeting customer needs often means making more product with the existing equipment, or building new plants. We are always looking at ways to minimize our raw material usage and our energy consumption, or debottleneck our existing processes to make more product. I have developed and frequently use mathematical models of our process, which allows us to identify the optimum set of operating conditions for a the given product demand rate and energy/raw material prices. I especially enjoy visiting overseas locations and helping them start up and optimize their process.
What advice would you give students today who were looking to study one of the disciplines in the School of Science and Engineering?
It’s important that students look at what interests them the most and what challenges them. And (speaking as a parent), they need to do some research to make sure there are employment opportunities in the area they study in a part of the country they would like to live. It’s difficult to have a degree in a field with limited job prospects, but on the other hand I don’t recommend pursuing a degree in a field that is not interesting to you, even if the job prospects are great. So you’re always looking for the balance between what you find challenging and interesting and finding a field with good job opportunities. Fortunately, for those interested in careers in science and engineering, there is an ongoing high demand for qualified graduates.
Share one thing about yourself that would give others insight into your interests, hobbies, etc.
I enjoy many outdoor activities such as running and mountain biking. It’s really nice to have access to all of the green areas near and within the UWF campus. My wife and I also take advantage of the gym on campus every summer. I also travel quite a bit because of the work that I do. Travel is great for perspective-making me appreciate what a great place Pensacola is to call home.