Please tell us about yourself
As a Corporate Scientist, I work with other engineers and scientists to breakdown complex problems, and currently lead the technology development for sustainable products in 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division (IATD). Unfortunately, I can’t share too many details about what I am working on in the lab, but there are a lot of exciting things happening in my Chief Science Advocate role I am happy to talk about!
I currently hold two roles at 3M that allow me to combine my technical expertise and creativity with my love of science. As a Corporate Scientist, I work with other engineers and scientists to breakdown complex problems and find solutions that stick! As the company’s Chief Science Advocate, I hope to help people of all ages around the world learn to appreciate science in their daily lives!
I started my career in 1993, in what used to be 3M’s Disposable Products Division (DPD), where I worked on components for disposable soft goods such as diapers. In 2006, I moved to the Industrial Adhesive and Tapes Division (IATD), where I now lead technology development for sustainable products for our Industrial market.
With decades of support from 3M, I’ve had the opportunity to work in multi-functional teams, develop technology building blocks, receive a number of U.S. patents and commercialize a wide range of products. The process of observation, imagination and experimentation has taught me how to balance logic and creativity.
I’m a big believer in bringing your “whole self” to any task. I try to spread this wisdom through mentoring and I enjoy speaking to groups all over the world about topics such as intellectual property, innovation, leadership and career development.
What did you study?
I never saw myself as the ‘engineering type,’ but with strong encouragement from my parents, I applied to the local engineering school.
I wasn’t admitted, but I still ended up getting my bachelor’s in chemical engineering from another institution. In the final year of the program, when many of the students at the top of my class were applying for graduate school in the U.S., I decided to apply as well, just for fun. I was accepted and my life took a different course from there. I moved to the United States, went on to get my Ph.D. and started my career at 3M.
Jayshree received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Trichy in India. She then attended Clarkson University in New York where she earned her MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering.
What do you do at 3M?
Jayshree’s research is mainly focused on identifying new growth opportunities, new technology development, and commercialization for sustainable Industrial Products within various markets. One of her current focus areas is development of adhesives and tapes for a multitude of applications.
Jayshree is developing and studying adhesives and tapes for use in industrial environments. Her goal is to create stronger, more versatile, and more sustainable products.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unoconventional and unique career?
Growing up, Jayshree didn’t necessarily see herself as a future scientist or engineer, despite the fact that her father was an academic professor. She also lived in a university town that was home to a premier engineering school. However, Jayshree’s parents and the parents of her peers had great aspirations that their children would pursue careers in science and engineering. After Jayshree’s older brother was admitted to the nearby engineering school, they were pretty sure Jayshree would follow the same path. Unfortunately, when she applied, she didn’t get in. Jayshree’s parents were extremely disappointed, but they were committed to ensuring she received a good education. Jayshree ended up attending a different school across the country in Southern India. The language, culture, food, and people were different from what she was used to at home, but this was a really impactful experience. As Jayshree was nearing the end of her engineering degree, she realized that most of her peers were applying to graduate school, so she applied as well. Jayshree limited herself to applying to schools where the application fee was $10 or less. This narrowed her list down to just one school, and she was accepted.
In graduate school, I ended up on a theoretical project — modeling of crystal growth in space. Sitting at the computer, running my programs, I found myself yearning to run physical experiments like some of the other students. I completed my Masters but realized my heart wasn’t into my current research area, so I looked into switching. Many students advised me not to switch projects because it would make my doctoral work harder and add years to the completion of my PhD, but I went for it anyway.
I had a fire lit inside of me and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I threw myself into the study of diamond-like carbon films and worked many long hours and weekends in the lab, running experiments, analyzing data, summarizing the work and publishing it. I realized that I had an aptitude for technical communication and presentation and worked to further develop my skills. I ended up with over a dozen publications with the help, guidance and support of my thesis advisor and lab-mates. This experience showed me that it is possible to reinvent oneself — it just takes grit and determination!
This mindset led me to jump at the opportunity to join 3M after I was offered a job following a summer internship, despite it being in an area I knew absolutely nothing about. My past experiences had given me the confidence to know that with hard work I could learn anything and would be able to reinvent myself if I had to!
While in graduate school, she completed a summer internship at 3M. It was her first exposure to working, and the environment there was amazing. Jayshree was happy to accept a full time position upon graduation, and she has been at 3M ever since.
Tell us about your projects at 3M
For many of Jayshree’s projects, the process is to start working in the lab, then move to pilot production, and then they perform the first run in the factory. Being on the factory floor is so exciting. Typically she has everything planned out, and then nothing goes as planned. Sometimes, there are only minor issues, but in other situations, it has taken hours to fix the problems they encounter in the factory. There have been days when Jayshree has begun to wonder if they are even going to make it into production, but then at 3am, suddenly everything comes together and starts working. Persistence is so important in this process.
How does your work benefit the society?
One of the more recent successes that was really meaningful was when Jayshree’s team was able to completely eliminate the use of solvents in making their packaging tape. This meant that the whole production plant could be completely solvent-free. They won an internal award for this achievement, and it was so wonderful to be advancing the company’s sustainability goals. It wasn’t the most challenging technical project they have completed, but helping to minimize their environmental footprint was very rewarding.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?
That there is really no such thing as the science or engineering “type.”
I never thought I was smart enough to be a scientist or curious enough to be an engineer, but thanks to the encouragements of my family and countless mentors, I was able to overcome my own hesitations.
Three decades later, I have enjoyed much success and I feel honored and proud to be a role model for other women trailblazers in STEM.