"When I was young, before college, I never thought I would be doing what I am doing now."
Oliver Chen M'97 (mechanical engineering) brings oxygen to the world. And nitrogen. And argon. As Air Products & Chemicals' manager of project engineering for Asia, he oversees the building of all air separation plants in China and Asia.
"The plant takes air, which is free, and separates it into pure oxygen, nitrogen and argon, etc." Chen says. Air separation units (ASUs) use cryogenic distillation to separate the gases. The resulting pure gases are used in a variety of applications from chemical to medical uses.
"When I was young, before college, I never thought I would be doing what I am doing now. I liked painting when I was a kid in primary and secondary school," he says. But the engineering boom in China caught his attention and Chen earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of China's top five engineering schools.
After graduation, he worked for a few years in the shipbuilding industry as a mechanical and project engineer in Shanghai and Singapore. A colleague in Shanghai recommended Bucknell to Chen as a graduate school and it was there during his first semester that he met Dean of Engineering Keith Buffinton.
"Professor Buffinton and his class made a big impact on me. He was teaching Advanced Dynamics in my first semester. I loved that class, and I did really well," Chen says. Buffinton invited Chen to be his research assistant in his robotics work and the two collaborated on research involving nonlinear control of flexible robotic arms.
Immediately after earning his master's degree from Bucknell, he accepted an offer from Air Products, a manufacturer of industrial gases that has 20,000 employees and operations in 50 countries. He joined the company's Allentown, Pa., office as a project engineer and soon advanced to the Singapore office before relocating to Shanghai in 2005. After working as project manager for a handful of major projects, Chen became the manager of project engineering under the company's global engineering organization and, as such, is responsible for all of Air Products' ASU projects in Asia.
When not juggling plant production and his staff of project managers and engineers, Chen enjoys spending time with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, reading, watching Hollywood movies and playing golf.