URI Instructor Joanne Compton Elected AIChE Fellow

Joanne Compton
Joanne Compton

By Neil Nachbar

Joanne Compton, an instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at URI, has been elected as a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals.

After a 30-year career as an engineer at Bridgestone and GOJO Industries, which produces Purell sanitizers, Compton became an instructor at URI in 2014.

“Most people who attain the grade of fellow come from academia, so their contributions to the chemical engineering profession are much more public than mine,” Compton said. “My contributions have been mostly in service to the AIChE at a local level, and to the companies where I worked. This recognition is public validation of the pride I’ve taken in my chemical engineering career.”

The criteria for election as a fellow in AIChE includes service to the profession and significant professional accomplishments over a long period time (normally 25 years).

“Since I became an engineering professional, I have always tried to introduce young people to chemical engineering in class visits, by judging science fair, and by mentoring interns and undergraduates,” Compton said. “GOJO, my employer for most of my career, was very supportive of these activities. Active membership in local AIChE chapters improved my leadership skills. I wouldn’t have the confidence to stand in front of the senior chemical engineering students at URI without those skills.”

Department of Chemical Engineering Chairman Geoffrey Bothun is grateful to have someone with Compton’s experience in the classroom.

“Joanne is a huge asset to our department,” Bothun said. “She has done a wonderful job of instructing our senior lab courses over the last few years. Students appreciate the insight she brings to the classroom from her experiences in industry and from AIChE.”

Stanley Barnett, who is a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical Engineering at URI and an AIChE fellow, wrote a sponsorship letter supporting Compton’s election as a fellow.

“I have interacted with Joanne Compton on several levels, as a professional, in her service to the Institute, and in her interaction with students,” Barnett wrote. “She has achieved success in all three areas and has my highest recommendation.”

Barnett was partly responsible for Compton joining the Department of Chemical Engineering staff.

“The Rhode Island chapter of AIChE had a meeting in June 2014 to try to re-activate the chapter,” Compton recalled. “At the meeting, Stanley Barnett found out I wasn’t working at the time and asked if I would be interested in teaching the senior lab course. I contacted Richard Brown, the department chairman at the time, and he hired me on the spot.”

John Kukwa, who worked with Compton for a couple of years at GOJO Industries, raved about her depth of knowledge. He was a processing manager when she was a process and quality engineering manager.

“Whenever I had processing issues, I sought out Joanne to resolve them,” Kukwa wrote in his recommendation letter. “Joanne collaborated with multiple departments – quality, customer service, production, processing and process development – to expertly lead process engineering initiatives. Her ability to troubleshoot complicated problems allowed GOJO to produce high quality products with minimum impact to on-time delivery promises.”

Compton ranks her work on the Purell family of products at GOJO Industries as one of her proudest achievements, along with the technologies she developed at Firestone for extracting natural rubber from guayule, a shrub that grows in the United States. Her research on the guayule shrub resulted in two U.S. patents.