Introducing ChemE’s new senior technical associate

February 8, 2016


Cindy Fitzgerald, ChemE’s new senior technical associate, works with juniors Reyna Juarez Martinez, Elizabeth Mauser and Michaela Wentz on an experiment using gas chromatographs to identify the components of a mixture.

During her 35 years as a hybrid color imaging engineer for Eastman Kodak Co., it was not unusual for Cindy Fitzgerald to fly out to Hollywood.

Not to the movie sets, mind you, but to the laboratories that processed the Kodak film used to shoot the movies on those sets.

“It was very cool to see that side of the business,” said Fitzgerald, who recently joined the Department of Chemical Engineering as an additional Senior Technical Associate. Her job is to help set up and conduct undergraduate labs in a department that has seen its undergraduate enrollment increase from 132 in 2010-11 to 232 this school year.

This spring, for example, she’s working with about 60 juniors.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So far her new position is “a really good fit” for her, Fitzgerald says, though “I’m still on a very steep learning curve to be sure.”

Fitzgerald, who graduated in chemical engineering from Clarkson University, worked as a systems engineer in Kodak’s entertainment imaging division, much of the time as a systems team leader.

“We were transitioning from analogue film to digital manipulations and digital recording and projection, so that’s where the ‘hybrid’ in my title came in,” she explained.

Her job was to bring together Kodak’s researchers, manufacturers and customers to “make sure that the technology was robust enough that you could actually manufacture it and satisfy the customers’ needs.”

She was the last systems engineer in that division when  Kodak  ceased funding research and development in motion picture film, leading to her departure.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The adjustment from industry to academia has been particularly interesting for her.

“In industry, you are profit driven; you have timelines, and you meet them. It is very direct; it is quantifiable, and you can see the results,” she said.

“In academia it’s more of a continuum. You have students coming through, but it’s a lot like parenting. You don’t see the end result from just one course.”