Among Susan Butts' best memories of her time at Northwestern are her lunchtime meetings with her thesis advisor, Professor Duward Shriver, and fellow researchers. "[It was] a great combination of socializing and science," she says of the group meals during which recent articles and new experiment results were tossed back and forth. Now the senior director of external science and technology programs at the Dow Chemical Company, Butts spends time fostering dialogue and building relationships within the scientific community.
Her position at Dow and her memberships in the National Council of University Research Administrators and the American Association for the Advancement of Science highlight her continued efforts to enrich connections between researchers, sponsors, universities, and labs across the country and throughout Europe. She was a cofounder and is currently the president of the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership, an organization that works within the National Academies of Science and Engineering to strengthen communications in the field and to remove certain barriers to industry-sponsored research at academic institutions.
In her position as global staffing leader for research and development at Dow, she helped guide the company through the process of globalization. She and her department successfully transformed nine independent analytical chemistry groups from Dow laboratories around the world into a cohesive team that could share resources and pursue the common goals of the company. She has also served as Dow's recruiting team captain and liaison with Northwestern.
For Butts, who earned her BS in chemistry from the University of Michigan and her master's and doctoral degrees from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, success has not come without roadblocks. "The biggest obstacle for me," she says, "was achieving credibility as a woman in science." There were few women in her field when she earned her diploma, and she found many people still doubtful about a female's place in laboratories and physical science and engineering institutions. She believes that her time at Northwestern helped her withstand this unwelcoming climate. Because the University's chemistry department is "world class," she says, and because her advisor, Professor Shriver, "always focused on what his students actually accomplished [rather than on] gender or race or style," she developed the self-confidence necessary to establish herself in the field.
Together with her husband Bertie, she has two grown sons, William and Robert. The couple lives in Michigan.