Courtney Balliet, 36
Senior group leader, adhesives and sealants R&D, PPG Industries
Big break: Changed course from going into the medical profession to sticking with chemistry
Cars are not just made of steel, aluminum, rubber and plastic. Chemicals also play a key role in safety, durability and refinement. And they will become even more important in the electric vehicle era, where chemicals are used in a variety of applications. The fact that the industry is changing at a breakneck pace few could have imagined doesn’t bother Courtney Balliet.
“Massive shifts in the industry or in the market can be stressful, but as a scientist, it can be enjoyable, fun and exciting, too, having to learn new things as the market pivots,” said Balliet, a senior group leader in adhesives and sealants R&D at PPG Industries.
When Balliet started college, her goal was to have a career in the medical profession. Part of the prep work was plenty of chemistry classes, which she enjoyed in high school. It was an abrupt change in educational direction that led to her career.
“I didn’t think I would have a future in chemistry or in science,” she said. “As I advanced in my core class work, I enjoyed the higher-level chemistry classes more than I thought I would. And that’s when I pivoted from thinking about going to medical school to thinking about going to graduate school.”
In the last 18 months, one automaker after another has committed to an all-electric future, and some countries even set an end date for vehicles with internal combustion engines. One project Balliet and her team are working on is creating a new generation of thermal management materials that help keep battery packs in EVs at the proper temperature. For Balliet, product development is a team sport.
“I lean on others with more experience or leveraging knowledge that others might have on workarounds and really trying to support one another. We have a lot of great people at PPG who collaborate and share the burden.”
One thing that motivates Balliet is when a product born in her lab becomes a commercial success. Another is working with people and helping them advance in their careers. And Balliet has some advice for female students thinking of technical and science careers.
“I’d always tell a young female student if she is interested in STEM and interested in the sciences not to let anyone discourage you,” she said. “Because they probably will along the way hear someone say something about women not belonging in the sciences or women not belonging in manufacturing. And not to take that to heart. Because they are wrong. If you do what you love, everything will fall into place.”
— Richard Truett