Thermal interface material development leader, DuPont Mobility & Materials
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
While doing research for my doctorate as well as post-doctoral work, I was focused on fundamental chemical research. I was interested in finding opportunities where chemical expertise could be applied to develop real solutions for end products. The development of composite resins and adhesives for the automotive industry was a great fit because chemical knowledge and deep scientific methods can be used to discover and develop new solutions. The automotive industry is extremely innovative. It's encouraging to find creative ways to solve new challenges. In my first job at Dow, I was responsible for the development of epoxy resins for carbon composites. Shortly after that, I joined the automotive adhesives R&D team, where adhesives solutions for the automotive industry are developed and implemented. Here, I was able to focus on the development of tougheners for epoxy adhesives as well as one- and two-component structural polyurethane adhesives used in automotive applications.
Your greatest achievement?
Leading the development of novel solutions for electric vehicle battery thermal interface materials. As the technology leader at DuPont for these materials, my team and I developed DuPont's BETATECH thermal interface material that helps enable safety and long service life by managing and controlling heat during both charging and vehicle operation, while also helping extend range. It's exciting to be part of the current paradigm shift to e-mobility. Being a key player in the development of a new product that the industry needs, then implementing that solution together with the customer, is a highlight of my career so far. It's only the beginning, I hope.
Born: Sursee, Switzerland
Languages: German, English, basic French
Education: Doctorate in organic chemistry, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland; master's degree in chemistry, University of Basel; bachelor's degree in chemistry, University of Basel; post-doctoral work with focus on supramolecular chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
While I was working on my doctorate thesis, I decided to try to synthesize a large, organic fullerene type molecule in the lab. I wanted to do this mainly because calculations showed that the molecule has very interesting properties and no one had ever synthesized it before, so achieving this would be a game changer. I spent a lot of time designing the protocol and coming up with a multi-step process. Everything was going well until I got to the last step. I went back to the lab and redesigned another multi-step synthesis strategy. Again, everything went well until the last step. It turned out that to this day, nobody has been able to synthesize it. I was very disappointed. However, I was also excited about developing a first-of-its kind strategy. This experience taught me that it's important to know when it's time to move on.
What is your current challenge at work?
Some of the biggest challenges have to do with the need to develop completely new solutions for the EV market. We focus on thermal interface materials to meet the growing demands from automakers and their customers for EV batteries that are safer, more durable, and with longer range. While other types of adhesive solutions are well-established, new developments often focus on modifications of existing products. Thermal interface materials are completely new, and the exact needs and requirements have to be developed in collaboration with our customers. That meant developing and defining new methods to understand the performance of the thermal interface materials in real-world applications. Some of the key areas we are focusing on include safety, durability and range. The EV market is very dynamic.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Follow your passion and be true to yourself.
2017-present: Thermal interface material development leader, DuPont Mobility & Materials, Freienbach, Switzerland
2014-2017: Automotive adhesives leader, R&D, DowDuPont, Horgen, Switzerland
2012-2014: Research assignment program, Dow, Horgen, Switzerland
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
The automotive industry is very demanding. It changes and evolves constantly. However, it's a very exciting place to be. My advice would be to keep an open mind, stay close to the customers to best understand their needs. Then build a solid relationship so that fruitful collaborations can be achieved.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like to continue to support the transformation toward vehicle electrification and the drive toward new mobility. The transformation of the automotive industry and the shift toward electrification calls for new ways of thinking and requires contributions from multiple actors across the industry. I hope to continue to grow professionally in R&D and keep developing and implementing more new ideas.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy snowboarding, skiing and mountain biking. My perfect day off is one that is spent in the mountains, preferably with friends and family. The physical activity energizes and motivates me.
What is your dream location to live?
I'm fortunate to already live in my dream location: Switzerland! The scenery, with its mountains, is beautiful and perfect for winter sports as well as hiking. It's also fabulous to go swimming in the fresh-water lakes during the summer.
What is your favorite driving song?
"Lookin' Out My Back Door" from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My most favorite road trip was one I took together with my wife before we got married. We traveled from Las Vegas to San Diego, then all the way up on the coast through California and Oregon. We were on a tight budget and rented the smallest and least expensive car, which was a Nissan Versa. We then decided to spend a few days surfing in Malibu. We had the surfboards on the roof of the car and hung our wetsuits on the open doors to dry. All of a sudden, a group of what we thought were tourists, took photos of our car with the surfboards and wetsuits. It turns out they worked for Nissan. They were amazed at how we made the car work for us. I wouldn't be surprised if those photos ended up in a presentation showing how we maximized the space for our equipment.
What was your first car?
My first car was a used Volkswagen Passat. It was the perfect size to stow sports equipment such as snowboards and skis.
I now drive a VW Golf Variant station wagon, which is perfect for the family.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Tesla Model 3. It's innovative and full of interesting new technology.