ExxonMobil executive talks tire pressure, environment

By Marissa Harrison|Contributing writer

Last week marked an important date for the University’s chapter of the American Chemical Society.

ACS hosted a guest lecture featuring Dr. Walter Waddell, a senior research associate at ExxonMobil Chemical Technology on Oct. 11 in Dillion I.

At his presentation, titled “The Effect of Inflation Pressure Loss Rates on Tire Rolling Resistance, Vehicle Fuel Economy, and CO2 Emissions: Global Analysis,” Waddell addressed the global impact of maintaining proper tire pressure and later encouraged students to explore their educational horizons.

Waddell used his many years of scientific knowledge and experience to make the presentation understandable, despite the topic’s complex nature. He also encouraged college students to continue pursuing careers in science-related fields after sharing his own experience in his position as senior research associate at ExxonMobil.

Waddell’s initial experiences with chemistry began at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. He then received a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from the University of Houston.

He received several awards throughout his pervasive career, including the Research Fellow Award from the U.S National Institute of Health.

Waddell also published over 145 papers in scientific publications, presented over 135 seminars at scientific meetings and designed 37 patented inventions.

One of the major points he discussed during his presentation was that the majority of Americans fail to check their tire pressure as often as they should.

He informed the audience that failure to do so decreases the car’s fuel efficiency and causes increased consumption of gasoline.

In turn, this increased consumption of gasoline eventually becomes a global problem because of the significant carbon dioxide levels emitted into the atmosphere from less fuel-efficient cars all over the world.

By reaching optimal fuel efficiency, drivers can thus significantly reduce their contribution of high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and maintain a healthier environment globally.

At the end of his presentation, Waddell explained to attendees the path he took in his education and work experience that led him to achieve the career he enjoys today.

Dr. Saul Trevino, professor of chemistry who attended the lecture, said he enjoyed listening to Waddell share his personal experience. Trevino added that he hopes it could serve as a useful example for future science graduates.

“I also enjoyed how students were able to learn about how he ended up where he is now,” Trevino said. “His academic journey from graduate school onward and how he ended up in industry is a fascinating story.”

Additionally, Waddell encouraged students to engage in classes outside of those strictly required to graduate. He posits that by doing so, students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the scientific world that will be useful when pursuing a career of their own.

Dr. Treacy Woods, chair of the chemistry department, said she was glad students got a first-hand account of working in the field.

“It was wonderful to see that there was a practical story and application that he was able to show from scientific data,” Woods said.  “He wasn’t just giving an opinion; he had all the data that he could analyze and put together.”

Woods summarized ACS’s ultimate goal of showing how scientists like Waddell can have an impact on society.

“In a way, he was showing us, at its best, how scientists can make a positive contribution to society,” she said, adding that she hopes to bring more speakers like Waddell to the University.

Both Woods and Trevino expressed hope that ACS will continue to invite speakers to the University to continue to encourage students to develop a greater passion for chemistry and insight into chemistry’s useful applications outside the University.

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