Today we feature chemical engineering alumnus Theodore Maxwell Cohen, originally from Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County). Now residing in Gladwyne, PA, he works as a project engineer on the design of pharmaceutical facilities at Integrated Project Services, LLC (IPS). Cohen shares with us how Rowan University helped him figure out what he was truly passionate about.
“I applied to nine schools and got into all nine of them. I eliminated five of them that were pretty far away. Both of my sisters had gone to college far away, and I saw that it wasn’t all that fun. I filtered it down to Rowan, Rutgers and Udel (University of Delaware),” said Cohen.
After eliminating Rutgers from his list due to the immense campus Rutgers has, it was down to the University of Delaware and Rowan. Cohen visited the University of Delaware and asked, “How are you going to help me succeed?” Cohen said the University of Delaware responded, “We take about 100 chemical engineering majors (ChE’s) every year. We graduate 50 of them as chemical engineers, and the rest we find something for them to do.” He thought, “Huh, those aren’t terribly great odds.”
Cohen then visited Rowan and met with Dr. C. Stewart Slater, professor and founding chair of the chemical engineering department. He asked the same question, and Dr. Slater said: “Well, we take about 30 ChE’s and we graduate around 23 of them as chemical engineers. But if you are willing to work hard, we will help you be successful.”
“At the end of the day, that and my scholarship is why I chose Rowan,” said Cohen.
The program has since doubled both its enrollment and full-time faculty, yet still maintains a small faculty-to-student ratio.
During his time at Rowan, Cohen mentioned that he met some incredible faculty mentors, who really made a positive influence on him.
“I had a couple of great mentors that impacted my life. One of them was Chuck Clerecuzio. He was an adjunct professor who taught a senior level course in biopharmaceutical facility design,” said Cohen. “It was the course that I took that made me realize what I wanted to do in my life. Chuck was my mentor for many years. Unfortunately, Chuck passed away recently.”
Another great mentor who helped Cohen was Dr. Brian Lefebvre. Dr. Lefebvre was a chemical engineering professor at Rowan University from 2004-2008. While completing research for Dr. Lefebvre, Cohen was able to get a paper published as the primary author.
“His specialty was bio process, which is what I really loved. I did three and a half years’ worth of lab work and research for him learning the basics of upstream and downstream bioprocessing. He helped me get a paper published while I was an undergraduate on anion-exchange chromatography,” said Cohen. “We became friends while I was a student, and continued that friendship with him long after I graduated. Brian helped me get my first job out of school at DuPont working on a similar project to his.”
Cohen is currently working at IPS as a project engineer for the design of pharmaceutical facilities. His role is to ensure that the design of the facility is cohesive and meets all of the numerous requirements from both the client perspective as well as regulatory.
His advice for Rowan students is: “Work hard. Try to learn as much as you can. Don’t be so wrapped up in your grades, they’re important but not that important. Learn the information and try to figure out what you love because you will spend the next 40 years working. Do something you enjoy.”
Cohen is thankful for figuring out what he loves. “Brian and Chuck helped me figure out what I was passionate about,” said Cohen.
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Story and photography by:
Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major