Do sports and wine go together? Many people may say no. But if you ask Katherine Glasgow, a self-described “sports fanatic,” she’ll half jokingly say, “Wine pairs well with everything!"
Glasgow’s appreciation for wine partly comes from her eight years of work experience in the wine industry, however, when Glasgow was studying the reactivity of tungsten complexes in graduate school, she didn’t know that she would end up working with winemakers one day. But since graduating from Indiana University with a PhD in chemistry, her expertise in tungsten has led her to an amazing career path, crossing multiple seemingly unrelated industries including the plastics industry and the wine industry.
Thanks to her curiosity and drive for getting things done, she has made positive contributions to every position she has held. And, she has managed to have fun along the way.
Studying the reactivity of tungsten complexes
Raised by scientific-minded parents in North Carolina, Glasgow knew from early on that she wanted to pursue a scientific career. But it wasn’t until her college years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that she found her true love for chemistry and research. Following her newly found passion, Glasgow worked for 2 years in Professor Holden Thorp’s lab as an undergraduate researcher, studying electro-catalytic oxidation of DNA by ruthenium complexes.
After graduating from UNC with highest honors in chemistry, Glasgow visited a number of graduate schools, searching for a PhD program that would match her interest and early research experience. Her fascination with catalysts eventually led her to Professor Malcolm Chisholm’s lab at Indiana University, where she built a solid foundation in understanding and utilizing the catalytic powers of tungsten complexes.
Upon her graduation from Indiana University in 2000, Glasgow went to work for GE Plastics (now SABIC), where she used her expertise in catalysis to develop better alkylation catalysts for making Bisphenol-A, a building block of polycarbonate.
Designing different polymer structures, and figuring out their potential usage in device fields, including food contact, medical devices, aircraft interiors, and automotive lighting, Glasgow enjoyed her work. In the following years, she worked on more than a dozen polymer materials, earned multiple prestigious awards, and received more than 15 US patents. With her outstanding job performance, Glasgow’s career at GE Plastics flourished.
Diving into the wine industry
There is no doubt that Glasgow’s career at GE would have continued to grow if she had stayed. GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt, once told Glasgow that she was “perfect” for her job. But after years away from her homeland in North Carolina, the desire to move back to the South was growing strong. So in 2007, after thriving at GE Plastics for seven years, Glasgow and her family moved back to North Carolina.
Glasgow’s rich experience at GE opened many doors. A few large companies in North Carolina showed interest in hiring her, but Glasgow wanted to join a smaller company in order to learn how to grow a business. After working on applications involving multiple industries, she also wanted to focus on just one area for a while, and the wine industry appeared fascinating. So in 2007, she joined Nomacorc LLC, a small company providing high-quality corks to worldwide winemakers.
At Nomacorc (now part of Vinventions), Glasgow’s role quickly evolved from a senior material scientist to a global director of product management. Today, as a vice president, she is responsible for global product research and development, and having accumulated more than 20 patents so far in her career, she is also responsible for the company’s patent strategy. Because she speaks Spanish, she helps Nomacorc’s factory in Argentina as well.
“Wine is a fun topic,” says Glasgow, “and it translates much better to discussions with wider groups of people about what I do.”
And the fun part of working at a small company? “It’s easier to make a substantial impact and to implement ideas.”
Glasgow credits her success to excellent organizational skills, effective communication, and her attention-to-detail, but her “no bull, just get it done” motto — inspired by her high school AP English teacher — has also undoubtedly played a huge role in her achievements.
Yanni Wang is a principal scientific writer and the owner of International Biomedical Communications, a company dedicated to translating research data into clear messages. Yanni has a PhD in chemistry and writes about biomedical research-related topics for professional audiences and the general public.