Forging a career in polymer science

PME Master’s Degree offers a pathway to success

Max Kristy had always been fascinated with chemistry, inspired by his high school chemistry teacher developing the idea of the subject as “the never-ending search for answers.” As a chemical engineering undergraduate student, he landed an internship at Rogers Corporation, an engineered materials company, and found a career path that allowed him to use his engineering skills to solve problems, through learned application knowledge in the field of chemistry.

But when he was hired full-time after graduation and began moving up the ladder — first in research and development, and then into new materials development — he wanted more technical expertise in the field. UChicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering’s master’s degree program was an ideal fit.

“Not many people in the field have a molecular engineering degree, and the application and value of that degree was really appealing to me,” said Kristy.

Kristy in cap and gown
Alumnus Max Kristy at his graduation from Pritzker Molecular Engineering.

He enrolled in the program part-time, continuing to work in materials development at the Rogers Corporation, coupling unique learnings from the program with his work in synthesis and front end innovation.  During his time in the program he filed 3 patent applications with Rogers Corporation, armed with the knowledge gained from the PME program.

“The polymer science courses were immediately applicable to what I was working on,” he said. In fact, at the time Kristy was working with his boss to develop ProCell 350, a product line of materials aimed at stopping thermal runaway in electric vehicle batteries, via a multi-mechanism and singular composite approach, learned through PME coursework. Later, he also developed and scaled up a product portfolio, known as BISCO Automotive consisting of six unique silicone foam formulations designed to address advanced automotive applications for gasketing, sealing and fireproofing.

He loved the lab course taught by Philip Griffin, director of the Soft Matter Laboratory, and jumped at the chance to utilize and learn a wide range of equipment, including Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and light-scattering equipment. “It’s all the same instruments you’d be exposed to in industry, but you’d have to have five jobs to have experience using such a wide range of equipment,” he said.

Throughout the program, Kristy advanced into technical management at Rogers Corporation, and was able to use his newfound familiarity with polymer science to guide and educate the employees who now report to him. “Having the right technical knowledge to help your employees as they learn the ropes is a really good skill to have,” he said.

While he ultimately hopes to become head of research and development, the program was so much fun that he’s considering doing a PhD program, as well.

In the meantime, he has recruited two of his colleagues into the Master of Engineering program. “It was just excellent, small, concentrated, and relevant,” he said. “I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is in the materials industry.”