Chemical Reaction – Grad Student Eric Steinman Has Found Synergy in Delaware

April 29, 2022

Growing up near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Eric Steinman benefited from the abundant sunshine and proximity to the beach. But a drive to a town in another state could take a day or more, which is why the University of Delaware grad student enjoys his new state’s central location.

“It’s near New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington, D.C.,” he says of Delaware. Steinman currently isn’t able to travel as much as he’d like, though, because he’s a Ph.D. candidate in UD’s chemical and biomolecular engineering department. He’s also serving on the board of the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA).

Steinman feels at home on campus in Delaware. “The University of Delaware has a top 10 program,” he explains, noting that the faculty are also impressive. “When you’re applying to grad school, it’s important that there isn’t just one perfect professor for you, but there are multiple professors.”

As he quickly discovered, the acclaimed chemical program is not the only thing the state has going for it.

Destined for Science in Delaware

Science and mathematics were familiar subjects in the Steinman household. His father is a radiologist and his mother, skilled in accounting, helps run their teleradiology practice.

Steinman, the couple’s middle child, realized he was interested in STEM at an early age. While he values medicine as a career, he is more interested in research. In many respects, being a researcher or scientist is the flip side of being a clinician as both are seeking solutions.

Steinman, who earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Florida, is now researching catalysis for national gas upgrading. Sound complex? The process is about minimizing waste.

“If you have a steak but it’s got a lot of gristle, you end up losing your raw material, right?” he explains. “We’re trying to reduce loss.”

By using consecutive processes, reducing separation needs and improving thermodynamics, he seeks to increase the efficiency of natural gas upgrading. His advisor is Marat Orazov, a former postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, whose research aligns with Steinman’s interests.

Making Delaware Connections

As a new doctorate student, Steinman began attending DESCA-sponsored events, and when a position on the board became available, he expressed his interest. He says both DESCA and the university do a good job of letting students know about area resources.

For instance, UD students can attend presentations featuring representatives from multiple companies on the same night. That’s easy to do, considering the state is an acknowledged hub for the chemical industry. Plus, it’s near national research labs.

Steinman is particularly interested in events featuring local entrepreneurs.

“Some people went the traditional route through a legacy company and ultimately spun off a technology, or they wanted to do something unrelated using the skills they’d learned,” he says. “Other people went straight into a startup out of their Ph.D., and some people started a company with their advisor.”

At some point in his career, he wants to work in a startup lab, whether it’s an expansion lab of a legacy chemical company or a startup proper.

Delaware: The Best of Many Worlds

When Steinman isn’t hitting the books or spending time in the lab, he likes to play or watch basketball. He’s hoping to see the Delaware Blue Coats, an affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, play on their Chase Fieldhouse home court in Wilmington.

Steinman has already experienced the many trails that wind through and around Newark. “There are a lot of good activities here — biking and hiking trails, good restaurants. The nearby historical sites are great,” says Steinman, who was fascinated by the American decorative arts collection at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.

Overall, he’s found that Delaware has much to offer in a small, accessible package – education, career opportunities, location, and quality of life.

“That,” he says, “has all been good to me in Delaware.”