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Chris Owens

BS 2003 chemical engineering

Chris Owens

Throughout his childhood, Chris Owens '03 has held a deep interest in science and technology. After encouragement from his chemistry professor at community college, Owens decided to transfer to Drexel to pursue the rigorous path toward a degree in chemical engineering.

"Engineering is about going through a problem-solving process in order to achieve the desired outcome," said Owens. "And that process has always been very exciting to me."

Starting his career as a process engineer in the biopharmaceutical industry, Owens is now the director of business development at Robert E. Lamb Inc., an industrial architecture and engineering firm in Valley Forge, Pa.

"I get to engage and collaborate with different manufacturing companies to determine where their needs are," he said. "And then I figure out how to best match our company's services to those needs in order to develop solutions."

In the years following his graduation from Drexel, Owens remained in Philadelphia and gradually started reconnecting with his alma mater. He attended several Alumni Association networking events and occasionally visited campus. He was eventually elected to the board of the College of Engineering Alumni Association and currently serves as the VP of Events.

Early last year, he received an invitation to a Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) alumni reunion that sparked his interest. Unfortunately he was traveling and missed the event, so he called Jenn Bing, program coordinator in the Department of Chemical Engineering, to introduce himself and ask how things went and to see what he missed.

Upon learning that the turnout was not what they had hoped, Owens offered to lend his event-planning skills to a second go at the reunion later that year.

"I had experience running a charity golf outing for two years so I told Jenn that if she wanted to give it another try, I'd do whatever I could to help."

With his assistance, word spread, attendance went up, and the CBE alumni reunion event in the fall of 2013 was a success. Now the department is gearing up for the 2014 event, and Owens is planning for even bigger and better things.

With the continued help of Bing and Dr. Giuseppe Palmese, professor and head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Owens and a committee of alumni volunteers are planning this year's event for Saturday, October 11.

"The first thing we changed is that we're making this an event, not a reunion," said Owens. "We want chemical and biological engineering alumni of all class years to attend and have the opportunity to engage each other as well as the University."

According to Owens, the event is going to be much more than just a reception. Check-in will take place from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and will be followed by a social hour for alumni to catch up with classmates and professors. During this time CBE alumni will have the opportunity to see table top presentations, learn about current research taking place in the department and find out about alumni events and activities on campus.

From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., campus tours are planned, which will be led by current CBE undergraduate students and faculty.

"We really wanted to focus this year on bringing value to the event for the alumni," said Owens. "The value could be in connecting with old friends, seeing the campus or networking and making professional connections. We wanted to design an event that would meet everyone's needs and compel alumni to return to the campus in the hopes of building fellowship and a chemical engineering community."

The day will conclude with a buffet dinner as Dr. Palmese discusses the progress of the department and Dr. Cameron Abrams, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, delivers the keynote lecture, "Novel Approaches to Inhibiting HIV Infection."

"When I met with Dr. Palmese to plan this event, it was clear we shared the same vision that over time this event could make the Drexel chemical engineering community stronger by engaging alumni and getting them involved," said Owens. "Dr. Palmese has wanted to do something to bring alumni back and to connect them with current students, as well as with the department."

A new mentoring program for CBE alumni and students, which Owens has been working on, will be formally announced at the October 11 event. The program will serve as an avenue for alumni to stay engaged outside of attending the Annual Event.

According to Owens, the program's mission is to "interface alumni and students in a way that is mutually beneficial to develop well rounded chemical and biological engineering graduates and to enhance the bond alumni have with Drexel University."

While Owens, Bing and Dr. Palmese, are still in the process of formalizing the mentoring program, they have had two successful pilot events, one in which Owens gave a presentation on using LinkedIn for career development to a group of about 30 students.

Alumni volunteer opportunities within the mentoring program vary from serving as a panelist, to giving a presentation, to conducting a skills-based workshop, or critiquing a senior design project. There are three additional mentoring presentations scheduled for this fall by alumni from the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

"A career in chemical engineering can be less obvious than some other disciplines," said Owens. "A lot of students in the program are unsure of what their career path options are because there is such a broad range of options. The benefit of the mentoring for students is that they can get exposure to alumni knowledge and experience, and they can network with alumni."

"And alumni not only get to reconnect with the students, the University, and one another, but they could also find future co-ops or meet future job candidates through the program," said Owens.