Travis Roberts
National Starch and Chemical Company, Principal Chemist

Chemistry B.S., 1997

I began searching for jobs in the chemical industry late in the first semester of my senior year. I obtained a list of several chemical companies from the ISU Career Center. I then proceeded to send a resume to several companies on the list. I was contacted by the National Starch and Chemical Company in Bridgewater, NJ. I flew out to New Jersey for a job interview and was hired shortly after the interview. I began my career with NSC just one month after graduating from ISU.

NSC is a subsidiary of a large British specialty chemical company named ICI. NSC specializes in both natural and synthetic polymers. I was hired into the Synthetic Polymer Research (SPR) department. The primary responsibility of my job was polymer synthesis. My training in organic chemistry at ISU allowed me to quickly gain a handle on polymer synthesis, since polymer synthesis is based upon the polymerization of monomers via free radical initiation. My day-to-day activities mostly involved finding ways to adjust the synthesis process in order to alter the properties of the polymer. I was quite pleased when one of the projects I was involved with went to large-scale commercialization.

While I certainly enjoyed learning about polymer chemistry, I often considered pursuing a career in analytical chemistry, since this is the area that interested me the most while at ISU. After working in SPR for three years, I responded to an internal NSC posting for a position in an analytical lab at an NSC location in Indianapolis. I was offered the position and have worked at the Indianapolis location for the past five years.

I currently work in Plant Genetics Group (PGG) for NSC as a laboratory manager. I work directly with geneticists who specialize in using traditional plant breeding techniques to develop starch products with unique properties. It is my responsibility to oversee the testing in the PGG laboratory and to develop new procedures that will provide the plant breeders with the information they need to make decisions. I currently spend about half of my time in the laboratory. I have found my college work in both analytical chemistry and biochemistry to be relevant to my current job. My training in analytical chemistry has helped me to develop new analytical techniques, while my biochemistry training has helped me to better understand the projects that are being worked on by the plant breeders.