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After Graduating, Jason Rochette ’07 Follows His Love for Polymer Chemistry

Jason Rochette

By Kamilah Heslop

Degrees
B.S. Polymer and Color Chemistry, 2007
B.S. Chemistry, 2007

Job Title
Growth Process Steward – CTO Strategic Support
Eastman

Current City
Knoxville, Tennessee

Hometown
Greensboro, NC

By the sounds of it, Jason Rochette ’07 is the epitome of a Wilson College of Textiles graduate who loves his alma mater. He took full advantage of his time on campus by attending a Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) camp, being named a Centennial Scholar, joining the Phi Psi Textile Fraternity and attending many Wolfpack sporting events — and cheering loudly during each win.

After graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in polymer and color chemistry and chemistry, he continued to explore his passion for chemistry by earning a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. From there, he leveraged his internship experiences — along with the training and skills from his undergraduate and graduate studies — into positions as a scientist for global chemical and coatings companies. 

Today, he is the growth process steward at Eastman and calls Knoxville, Tennessee home. He lives there with his wife, three-year-old son and 14-month-old daughter.

Q&A with Jason Rochette ’07

Why did you choose NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?

The summer after my junior year of high school, I attended the Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) and worked with Professor Richard Kotek. This opened my eyes to the possibility of future study and a career in polymer chemistry. The potential seemed unlimited. It was also my first look into the culture of the Wilson College of Textiles, which had a small-college feel with the benefits of the larger university. 

What activities were you involved in as an NC State student and how did they impact your experience?

I was lucky enough to be awarded the Centennial Scholarship, which meant I joined a great group of Centennial classes before and after me. I was a member of Sigma Tau Sigma and held leadership positions within Phi Psi National Textile Fraternity

What is your fondest memory of being at NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?

I always enjoyed camping and beach trips with Phi Psi. I also spent a month in Europe with fellow Centennial Scholar Nick Kain. We traveled from city to city and explored how textiles impacted different countries, ages and industries across Europe. And, I can still remember the winter of my freshman year running up to the Bell Tower in a sea of red and white after the Wolfpack upset Duke.

Who influenced you most during your time at the Wilson College of Textiles?

Professor Keith Beck
Professor Keith Beck

The faculty of the TECS department, starting with Dr. Keith Beck, were huge advocates for hard work and dedication. His mentorship in combination with that of Dr. Richard Kotek and Dean David Hinks really motivated me. Another great advocate was Kent Hester, director of student services. He really kept the pulse of the students and was a guide for anybody trying to determine “what’s next”.

How did your education at the Wilson College of Textiles prepare you for what you are doing today?

I believe that I gained knowledge of not only my academic fields of study but what it meant to work with teams or across functions. The mingling of academics and industry at the college and on Centennial Campus also provided an introduction into the “real world.” I also took advantage of undergraduate research which helped prepare me for my Ph.D. program.

I had known chemistry was an area of strength for me and STEP opened my eyes to the possibilities of future study and a career. The potential seemed unlimited. It was also my first look into the culture of the Wilson College, which had a small college feel with the advantages of the larger university.”
Jason Rochette ’07

What advice do you have for current Wilson College of Textiles students?

Take advantage of programs and opportunities that allow you to learn more about industry or innovation. Similarly, gaining more knowledge in business acumen, supply chain, marketing and sales will prepare you for eventually having to work with those functions.

Describe your career path.

I defended my dissertation in 2012 and went to work at Ashland Specialty Ingredients as a staff scientist in the molecular science research function. My focus was on rheology modifiers for applications in architectural paints, personal care products and home care products. I had my first experience managing others, leading projects and working on cross-functional teams. I also took my first international business trip to the Netherlands to work on a pilot scale-up of a new product I’d developed. I got engaged, then married and followed my wife to Ohio so she could attend graduate school.

I found a position at Akzo Nobel Performance Coatings as a scientist in the global resin synthesis research and development (R&D) group where I focused on a variety of coatings resins and crosslinking technologies.

It was another large, global company and I also first got introduced to sustainability and the circularity of recycled and bio-renewable products as we strived to provide more environmentally friendly options to our customers and the world. I represented Akzo Nobel in a consortium on deriving raw materials from biosources. I was also present for a relocation of our U.S. R&D headquarters which gave me the experience of assisting in the set-up of new labs.

Four years passed and it was time for my wife to graduate and start a postdoc which drew us to southeast Michigan a month after the birth of our son. I was lucky to find a technical role at Resinate Materials Group, where I joined a relatively junior technical staff of technicians and chemists. Being a small start-up, it also meant wearing technical service and business development hats. It was my first experience trying to promote our products and innovations in sustainable polyester polyols to some of the biggest players in various industrial markets and scout new opportunities. It had been the most rewarding role for me at this point in my career as I moved into a leadership position and helped to really drive growth for our organization.

In January 2020, Resinate was acquired by Carlisle Construction Materials (CCM). Over the course of a few months, I saw my role grow to research and development manager of the remote research site. Over the course of the year, the team continued to achieve milestones on its project goals and integrated into CCM. However, the effects of COVID-19 on the economy and industry climate led to the close of the Plymouth site by mid-2021. My wife and I decided to move back closer to North Carolina.

Rochette family
Today, Jason Rochette ’07 calls Knoxville, TN home. He lives there with his wife, three-year-old son and 14-month-old daughter.

I accepted a role in Eastman’s corporate innovation organization as a member of the growth process steward’s Center of Excellence. This took me out of research and development to being more of a facilitator between technology and the business. I began my career with Eastman working remotely from Michigan until my family settled in Knoxville, TN. In October, I became the strategic support and staff assistant to the chief technical officer and now help to facilitate programs and assist the technology leadership team and broader technology organization.

To learn more, view Jason Rochette’s LinkedIn profile.