2020 BEST Symposium

August 27, 2020

UD graduate student Elvis Ebikade selected to participate in the highly competitive event hosted by Dow Chemical

UD graduate student Elvis Ebikade selected to participate in the highly competitive event hosted by Dow Chemical

Social distancing hasn’t slowed down Elvis Ebikade, a fifth-year graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering and a Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) Fellow. While getting outside to run, analyzing research results, and slowly getting back into the lab, he has also been using his research to build networks with industry. Ebikade was one of 30 finalists selected to participate in the highly competitive 2020 Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) Symposium, hosted by The Dow Chemical Company.

According to the symposium site, “Dow’s BEST Symposium is primarily intended to introduce African American, Hispanic, Native American U.S. doctoral and postdoctoral scientists to the wide range of rewarding careers in industrial research, and in particular, the many opportunities with one of the world’s largest and leading chemical companies.”

The annual event was to be held in Midland, MI, July 28-30, 2020. Due to COVID-19, the BEST Symposium took place virtually instead to ensure the well-being of all participants and employees.

The four-day virtual event consisted of several small group sessions, evening happy hours and final presentations. Participants were paired with a mentor and split into small groups for the “Dow Challenge”, where each group was assigned a research exercise. Ebikade’s group was tasked with developing plastics that are recyclable by design.

Every year, the highlight of the symposium is the rapid-fire two-minute drill session. During the time limit, participants have four slides to introduce themselves and describe one of their research project. The context of the problem, how it was solved, and the impact of the work, all have to be conveyed succinctly in two minutes. Based on the content and quality of the presentations, Dow hiring managers and business leaders reach out to participants of interest for a 15-minute speed networking style interview.

This year the live presentations were recorded ahead of time and presented as a webcast to Dow leaders, hiring managers, recruiters and BEST participants. Ebikade was invited to nine interviews and voted by Dow employees as a top three presenter during the two-minute drill.

As Ebikade always explains, “the future is garbage.” His research focuses on food waste valorization, where he applies his background in chemical process improvement and catalysis to transform organic waste materials into high value products.

The well-organized event was extremely engaging, according to Ebikade. “[I enjoyed] seeing the empowerment amongst minorities in STEM, the mentorship from people who have gone through BEST and are now working at Dow, and learning about Dow,” he adds.

Ebikade is advised by Dionisios Vlachos, the Allan and Myra Ferguson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation and the Delaware Energy Institute.

Article by Jaynell Keely | Photo courtesy of Elvis Ebikade