Wednesday, November 29, 2023 03:30PM
Theresa Whiting

Note: Coffee and snacks will precede the lecture at 3 p.m. in the Ford ES&T L1 Atrium


Theresa Whiting, Advanced Product Development Specialist, Abrasive Systems Division, 3M


"Applying Fundamentals of Polymer Science to Industrial Product Development at 3M"




Since receiving my ChemE Bachelor’s degree in 2007, I have transitioned from primarily academic to more industrially applied projects, starting with government lab and industrial collaborations during my PhD and Postdoctoral research, and continuing in my current role as a Research & Product Development Engineer at 3M. I found myself surrounded with experienced industrial co-workers who have used science and engineering to innovate and create new technologies and products.


A common misconception I’ve encountered is that industrial researchers no longer need to use science to perform their job: that fundamental understanding of complex systems are only necessary in the university laboratory. While it is true that decision-making in industry depends on a great number of considerations including the market and business landscape, in my experience the key element that enables a successful product is understanding and leveraging fundamental science and engineering principles.


Specifically, I have found the following two attributes to be essential to successful product development:


1) grounding the product form and function to structural-property relationships, and


2) understanding of the inseparable interplay between materials and process.


In this talk, I hope to illustrate these learnings through product development vignettes in the fields of abrasives products, clean removal adhesive tapes, and reflective safety products.




Dr. Theresa Whiting joined 3M in 2014 and has been a part of the Safety and Industrial Business Laboratory and the Abrasive Systems Laboratory. Throughout her industrial career, she has developed new technologies and products for abrasives, adhesives, films & coatings, nonwovens, and optical materials. She was the recipient of the Polymer Industry Rising Star Award from AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) in 2021, and the Promising Professional Award from SASE (Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers) in 2022.  She is an author on 17 granted patents and 29 filed patents under review. Theresa is active in  outreach and mentoring efforts at 3M, including the RISE Symposium for PhD students (Raising Influence in Science and Engineering) and 3M’s summer internship program for undergraduate students. Currently she is the co-lead for 3Muniversity recruiting for Stanford University and UC Berkeley.


Theresa holds a B.S. from Cornell University and Ph.D. from Stanford University both in Chemical Engineering, with a research focus on fluid mechanics/rheology and polymer physics. Specifically, she investigated the transient physics and instabilities of interfacial flows for highly elastic polymer and surfactant solutions using a combination of high-speed imaging, optical rheometry, and extensional rheology. Theresa also completed postdoctoral work at Rice University funded by AFRL (Air Force Research Lab) on using fluid processing to control the self-assembly behavior of nanomaterials for lightweight, thermally conductive composites and shape memory materials. She currently lives in St. Paul with her husband Bryan (who is also a 3M Scientist) and their dog Bonnie.