Oscar Lee Martin Jr. (’96) has found career success in combining innovation and entrepreneurial mindsets, at both of which he excels.
Martin, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, works as a regional technology leader for DuPont, and his team has secured patents including materials designed for armored cables, flame and chemical protection garments, and composite sheet materials.
“DuPont makes products like Nomex, Kevlar, and Tyvek,” Martin said. “These are used in different subapplications, and I get to see a concept through scaling into manufacturing and launching into the marketplace. It’s a fascinating process, and I would say that, as engineers, we always have to bring to the table an entrepreneurial kind of mindset and ask ourselves how to be more nimble, faster, creative, and innovative.”
Martin joined the company after completing his master’s in chemical engineering at UT, and he credits the university with providing an applied education. He studied under Professor Robert Counce, in whose class a collaborative project with DuPont helped Martin secure his initial opportunity at the company.
“I knew that I wanted to go into industry using the concepts I learned at UT,” said Martin, who completed his PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University while working at DuPont. “Professor Counce was a great mentor and helped me move in that direction. If my experience here at UT had been purely theoretical, then it would have taken me in a different direction.”
During a visit to campus in January, Martin delivered a guest lecture to a chemical engineering class and advised students to “stay engaged, stay hungry, and be serious.”
He enjoyed giving the lecture in part because he enjoys mentoring the next generation of engineers. As part of this goal, Martin established a company and online school in 2009 called TechnologyEd, which has grown from a handful of classes to more than a hundred and provides continuing education opportunities for scientists and engineers.
“I want students to understand the necessity of differentiating themselves from the competition,” Martin said. “We all need to think about what’s going to make us successful versus the next person being considered for a particular job or advancement. I encourage an entrepreneurial mindset.”
A self-professed fan of the TV show Shark Tank, Martin’s mind is always “working and spinning, thinking about new ideas.”
“What I like about Shark Tank, is that people come with fascinating ideas, and the process helps them take those ideas to the next level through investment, concept development, networking, and more,” Martin said. “The ultimate goal is always to commercialize an idea, add value, and make the company and world a better place.”