Former Co-op Student Tony Granville '97 Designs Polymers in Australia

8/3/2012

Stevens alumnus Tony Granville (B.S. in Chemistry, 1997) is a 20-hour flight away from Hoboken, but his alma mater is never far from his mind.

A lecturer and academic fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, Granville credits his experience in the Stevens Cooperative Education Program for awakening him to his dream job (running an chemistry lab), pushing him to pursue his doctorate (which he earned in 2004 from the University of Akron), and landing him beach-side in the South Pacific (where he spends his free time scuba diving).

Originally from Coatesville, Penn., Granville said his childhood could be described as cliché for a future chemist.

“I had a chemistry kit as a kid and was constantly tinkering and blowing stuff up,” he said.

At Stevens, Granville was torn between majoring in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering until he began his first Co-op assignment at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Synthesizing and researching polymer composites in the FAA’s fire safety branch was fascinating, and he knew from then on that he had to be a chemist.

“After that I geared all of my electives at Stevens and my placements in Co-op toward polymer chemistry,” he said.

Granville also knew that working with polymers would make him marketable in the workforce. It worked. After a second Co-op placement at the FAA – and one in AlliedSignal’s micro-optic devices branch doing complex research on polymer coatings for optical materials like waveguides and backlights for LCD screens – Granville was a no-brainer to be hired for his first full-time, post-graduation job. He went to work at Mitsubishi Chemical America as an organic chemist responsible for developing aftermarket charge transfer polymer coatings – the materials that make laser printers work.

“I definitely had a massive edge over other applicants,” he said. “The job was a blend of basic research and pilot plant work, taking everything I had learned and pushing me even more.”

Granville worked for Mitsubishi for two years, but missed constantly getting his hands dirty in the lab. Having kept in touch with one of his former Co-op managers, Granville took his advice to leave industry and pursue his Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry.

“It was the research and lab work that I loved, and the only way to really keep doing that was to run a research lab, and you have to have a doctorate to do that,” Granville said. “It was easily the most valuable bit of advice I’ve ever gotten.”

Today Granville is living his dream. At USNW’s Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design, he’s involved in advanced research in the areas of biopolymers for sensors, electronics, and nanomedicine – research that he says has the potential to lead to earlier disease detection, faster treatment and improved survival rates. 

“Implementation is a long ways off, but the potential is there so it’s pretty exciting,” Granville said. “I’m confident that we’re right on the cusp of some really big breakthroughs.”

He’s also teaching graduate-level polymer synthesis courses at UNSW and working to develop a polymer engineering course that combines a number of different research fields, including water membrane systems, catalysis research and food science.

“I’m trying to show the students just how important a basic understanding of polymers can aid them in virtually any career path they take,” Granville said.

And fittingly, Granville is involved in USNW’s own Co-op program, as a coordinator for its Industrial Chemistry stream. He primarily serves as a liaison between academia and industry, ensuring students fulfill their course requirements and also get valuable work experience at the companies they work for.

“It’s my little way to give back for how rewarding my own Co-op experience was,” he said.