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Team Spotlight: Research & Development (R&D)

A few of our R&D professionals give insight on their day-to-day responsibilities and how Grace remains a reliable, indispensable resource to customers
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As our customers are challenged to innovate and remain nimble, Grace's Research & Development (R&D) team is a proven, reliable, often indispensable resource. Over 90 percent of Catalysts Technologies products and over 60 percent of Materials Technologies products are designed for our customers' specific and unique business needs. As Grace continues to grow and remain focused on helping our customers succeed, so will our R&D team.

“We look for innovative people who think outside the box, have a safety-first mindset, can adapt to an everchanging environment, and are solution driven to join our team,” says Jack Coalter, R&D Director, Polyolefin Catalyst Design.

Coalter leads a team focused on polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) catalyst development. Grace’s PE and PP catalyst are used in everyday products from food packaging and plastic bottles to pipes that carry water around your home.

“Sustainability has been a huge focus over the last few years,” explains Coalter. “Our customers rely on us to help them meet their sustainability objectives. Our R&D team strives to try to design products that are more energy efficient, light weight, reduce our carbon footprint, and contribute to a circular economy.” 

Courtney Spain Sowah, Senior R&D Lab Supervisor, leads a team of R&D technicians that are responsible for testing polyethylene and polypropylene catalysts in the lab.

“I lead the Columbia Bench Scale Reactor (BSR) polyolefin catalyst testing team, which supports R&D researchers as they work to develop new catalyst both for polyethylene and polypropylene,” explains Sowah. “We also test samples to ensure our products meet customer specifications before being shipped.”

Sowah started at Grace 12 years ago as an intern then transitioned to a full time Chemist. She has since worked her way up to Senior R&D Lab Supervisor.

“My favorite part of my job is that its hands-on and not everyday is the same,” says Sowah. “I get to work directly with our internal technical colleagues as they help customers find innovative solutions and develop new products. The reason that I stayed at Grace for most of my career is the people. I am supported by a talented group of individuals that make work fun.”

I get to work directly with our internal technical colleagues as they help customers find innovative solutions and develop new products.

Courtney Spain Sowah

Senior R&D Lab Supervisor

Victoria Howell, Senior R&D Technician Specialist, also echoed Sowah’s sentiment around Grace culture. “I started at Grace a month after I graduated college,” says Howell. “I was nervous because I knew I had so much to learn. The team at Grace was so welcoming and knowledgeable, they trained and taught me everything I needed to know to be successful.”

Howell said one thing that is unique about the technicians at Grace is that not everyone has the same responsibilities; it varies based on the person’s skillset and interest. “Throughout my career at Grace, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various instrumentations,” explains Howell. “I’ve worked in wet chemistry and physical testing. Both were great learning opportunities.”

Currently, Howell’s role consists of project management, sample analysis, and polymer characterization. “Our team plays a vital role in testing products to make sure they meet customer’s needs,” says Howell. “Grace is very future focused, and innovation driven. It’s exciting being part of the process of creating products that improve everyday life.”

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