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It’s hardly surprising that he came to engineering in an atypical way. Neivandt studied chemistry as an undergraduate and doctoral student at the University of Melbourne, Australia. As a postdoc at the University of Cambridge, where he held a prestigious Oppenheimer Research Fellowship, Neivandt started working with corporations to help them solve formulation issues.
“I had what you might call an epiphany,” he says. “I realized what I actually enjoyed was using chemistry to solve problems. As opposed to pure science — pure chemistry — which is based on discovery, I found I derived greater interest and pleasure solving problems using science — problems that mean something to somebody, problems that benefit society. One is based on discovery, and that’s important, but I also think the application of that knowledge is important.”
He could’ve gone into industry, but he loved the freedom and variety of the academic environment. Here he can research a range of interests, so long as he lands grant support and his projects are in line with the university’s mission.
So far, that hasn’t been a problem. In the last 10 years, he has been principal investigator or co-PI on some 28 major state, federal and industrial grants. His share alone has been more than $2 million. Beyond that, he has filed 13 patents and has published 28 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
“To my mind, it has to be innovative. Otherwise, you’re walking the path others have walked before,” Neivandt says. “The hope is that all the returns filter back to the university and the state.”