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Dr Abdul-Aziz Rashad is a senior R&D; manager at Praxair

Based in the process and systems area, he and his team are developing state-of-the-art gas-production plants for Praxair’s customers

Dr Abdul-Aziz Rashad works on next generation designs plus upgrades. Dr Abdul-Aziz Rashad was born in Kuwait of Egyptian parents. When he completed his PhD at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST, Manchester, England) he explored the options available to him in Europe and North America.

Now, with a Canadian wife and two children, his international background seems to be an important part of the path to his current work as senior R&D; manager at Praxair, Inc (Danbury, CT). Rashad’s team is in the cryogenic process and systems R&D; department. In the department are engineers from countries that include Nigeria, Colombia, India and China.

The company has 28,000 employees and operates in more than thirty countries, supplying customers with atmospheric, process and specialty gases. It serves aerospace, food, healthcare, energy and many other industries. Originally founded in 1907, Praxair was the first company in North America to commercialize cryogenically separated oxygen.

Stressing industrial research
“My area is the development of large supply systems, known as air separation plants, for the production of oxygen and nitrogen for many different types of customers,” Rashad explains. His clients are in steel manufacturing, energy, chemicals, electronics and many other fields; Rashad’s team plays a key role in ensuring that Praxair supplies its customers with the “lowest cost, most reliable and efficient industrial gas supply systems,” he says. Gases such as oxygen and nitrogen are used by Praxair’s customers to operate their processes more efficiently, increase productivity, and comply with environmental regulations.

Praxair offers a good career in industrial research, Rashad says with satisfaction, and that’s what he was seeking when he began there. “I was impressed that a lot of chemical engineering technologies can trace their roots to this field,” he says. “The process of air separation is energy-intensive and justifies a high level of sophistication in equipment.”

Growth at Praxair
Rashad started at Praxair in 1998 as an R&D; development associate. He held several positions leading up to his current job, which he began in 2006. Rashad and his team recently commercialized new designs for Praxair’s largest air-separation plant. They keep three or four projects going at a time with a typical three-year project life cycle.

“We play a key role in understanding business needs for air-separation plants and translating those needs into successful designs for Praxair,” he says. “We are continuously evaluating new ways to upgrade existing facilities as well as new design concepts for the next generation of supply systems.”

CO2 recovery and more
One exciting project involves the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Rashad is waiting to hear about funding from the U.S. government to set up a demonstration project currently planned in New York State that will involve a new air-separation plant design.

Rashad is, of course, also responsible for managing his department. Nine process engineers, most of them PhDs, work for him. “I like to develop people and manage their training,” he says. “I get to coach them and see them develop, maybe to become one of our future leaders.”

Deep into engineering
The youngest of ten children, Rashad grew up to watch six of his seven brothers become engineers. Others in the family chose medicine, psychology and archeology. “I realized that I wanted to be an engineer when I was in my teens,” he says. “My brothers were graduating and starting work. I understood what they were doing and liked it. I did my own research and found that ChE offered great freedom to work in many industries.”

In 1994 Rashad graduated from UMIST at the top of his class with a degree in ChE and environmental technology. He went on to an MS, with a thesis on computational modeling of gravity settlers.

All through school Rashad worked at technically related jobs. One was with a research company, quantifying the need for an oil/water emulsion characterization test rig. He was also a ChE trainee for Shell International Petroleum Co (Chester, England), and worked as a ChE at BP Chemicals (Hull, England).

In 1998 he completed his PhD at UMIST, sponsored by Shell International. His dissertation was on computational and experimental modeling of primary separators.

A variety of programs
At Praxair, Rashad began with four years as an R&D; development associate, then moved on to another four in the company’s healthcare applications area, where he started a new research group. His programs ranged from developing and commercializing new cryogenic medical gas devices to managing clinical research on gas therapies.

Teaching the kids
One of Rashad’s more ambitious home projects has been teaching his kids to speak Arabic. “It’s going slowly,” he says with a laugh. He enjoys playing squash, snowboarding, running and soccer.

Reflecting on his own cultural background, Rashad thinks that everyone should try to make the most of their differences. “Big companies that operate in many countries need people with different backgrounds and different ways of thinking,” he says. “Search for things that make you stand out in a positive way, rather than trying to conform and fit into a mold with everybody else.”


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