Learning ‘Why?’ and not just ‘What?”

Distinguished Alum Chad Felch turns curiosity into notable chemistry career

 
By Sydney Inks
 
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point alumnus Chad Felch is an accomplished scientist and inventor, but is unique in his field for holding a single bachelor’s degree. Nevertheless, Felch feels well-equipped, as a scientist and professional with the problem solving skills he acquired at UW-Stevens Point.

Recruited by Professor of Chemistry Robert Badger for a research project – later revealed to be a failed experiment – Felch dove into chemistry and used his time in Stevens Point as a springboard to a successful professional career.

“I don’t specifically remember every concept Professor Badger taught me in organic chemistry, but I remember the resources he gave me to find it and understand it,” said Felch, recipient of the College of Letters and Science Distinguished Alumnus Award during Homecoming weekend in September.

Many college students find their educational and career paths veering from their original plan, and Felch is no exception. Beginning with hopes to be an engineer, mainly because it paid well and seemed practical, he ultimately chose to major in chemistry.

“Physical chemistry taught me ‘why,’ whereas other chemistry just taught ‘what,’” said Felch. “My curiosity got the best of me and I declared that major.”

Felch graduated from UW-Stevens Point in 1995 with a B.S. in Chemistry. Following graduation, he was employed at a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer and industrial hygiene laboratory before finding his way to Siemens Water Technologies. Felch serves as research and development director at the company’s Rothschild location, and in his 15 years with the company has produced more than 200 successful inventions and authored or co-authored 15 patents. Felch earned the 2007 Inventor of the Year Award from Siemens ­— the only American recipient that year. A signature achievement is his work making production of oil tar sand in Canada more environmentally compatible.

The environmental awareness and natural resources education at UW-Stevens Point influenced Felch and his work at Siemens. He has incorporated these ideals and practices learned outside his discipline in his inventions. Siemens has given Felch the opportunity to explore business alongside research and development.

“Science, engineering and mathematics have sustainable outlooks for careers in upcoming years, but it’s more about finding something you are passionate about so you can be great at it,” said Felch. “If you pick the right degree, science or discipline, your job becomes your hobby, and that’s a really cool feeling.”

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