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2014 Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year: Suzette M. Schultz

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Each year, one professional from the Philadelphia region is recognized by the engineering and technical societies of the Delaware Valley, through the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, to serve as an ambassador and leader for the engineering profession. The highly coveted Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year Award is bestowed upon a colleague who reflects the qualities and talents that define professional excellence, civic duty, and community stewardship.

The Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia is pleased to present the 2014 Engineer of the Year Award to Suzette M. Schultz, Senior Project Manager for AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceutical company.

Making A Difference for Disease Management

Suzette Schultz, a chemical engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, has built a career that includes a long list of professional accomplishments. Her first position in the field was with Bristol-Myers Squibb in Indiana where she was a production foreman supervising all aspects of pharmaceutical production from raw material delivery to packaging and distribution. While there, a significant contribution was her work in developing an aqueous-based coating for a prenatal product that resulted in major cost and environmental savings. Following her 10 years at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Schultz began working in operations at AstraZeneca in Delaware where, today, she is a Senior Project Manager.

In that role, Schultz oversees the entire product launch process through distribution. In her work, Schultz and her team set a record for getting a product moved from FDA approval to pharmacy shelves in just 10 days. But even this is not her proudest accomplishment.

Schultz has been involved in various projects developing drugs to treat many different diseases, and her aim is to consistently bring drugs to market in a cost effective, efficient and environmentally conscious manner. But for Schultz, it’s often about more than the drug, itself. She spoke humbly about working on a project that supported the oncology therapeutic area, as it had deeper meaning for her. “There is a history of cancer in my family, so my work in areas like oncology is most meaningful,” noted Schultz. “It makes me very proud to work on projects that support products that help make a difference in patients’ lives.” In addition to oncology, AstraZeneca focuses its work in other key therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, infection, and neuroscience diseases. During her tenure, Schultz has worked across most of these therapeutic areas.

Although great strides have been made in drug development for certain diseases, Schultz said that the future of chemical engineering lies in the illnesses of the aging. “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are a big problem throughout the world right now,” she said. “People are living longer, but a longer life brings a greater incidence of health issues.”

Empowering Women Engineers

Schultz is passionate about paving the way for women in the STEM fields. Only the second woman ever to be named Engineer of the Year by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, Schultz set her sights on the field early in life when career options were seemingly more limited for women. “My guidance counselor in high school told me that my career options were either nursing or secretarial,” said Schultz. “But I loved the sciences and was fascinated by chemistry. I decided that I would break the mold and study chemical engineering at school.” Schultz attended the Pennsylvania State University where she graduated with degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Chemistry.

“There is not enough recognition for women in the engineering field,” said Schultz. “When I was in college, there was a 13-to-1 ratio of men to women pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree. That number has changed since I was in school, and there are opportunities for women in the field now more than ever.” As a member of AIChE for more than 30 years, Schultz has directed programs at the pre-college and college level to encourage and mentor women in the engineering field. Schultz has had the opportunity to meet and speak with engineering students at local universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Rowan University. “These are the brightest students asking the brightest questions that I have ever seen,” said Schultz. “They are a diverse group that share many different perspectives.”

Strong, Smart and Bold™

As the immediate past president of Girls Inc. of Delaware, Schultz embodies the organization’s motto — Strong, Smart and Bold.™ Passionate about the work that she does, she shares her passion with young women in the program who are genuinely interested in the STEM field. Girls Inc. of Delaware is a non-profit organization that works with 1,400 disadvantaged girls throughout the state to help expand their horizons and encourage them to overcome challenges through research-based initiatives. “Without this program, many of these girls find themselves in hopeless situations and don’t see a way out,” said Schultz. “By attending the programs each day, they connect with an adult mentor, which is so important, and begin to see that there are so many positive opportunities available to them.” A member of the organization for five years, Schultz has encouraged many of the girls in the program to pursue careers in the STEM fields. In fact, she helped form the Latina Initiative within Girls Inc. to encourage young Hispanic women to study the sciences, and she has hosted girls from Girls Inc. at AstraZeneca’s corporate headquarters for a first-hand look at the industry. “When I was their age, my father took me to see a female chemist at work,” noted Schultz. “It wasn’t until after I saw her in the field that I had a better understanding of the industry, and I want to create that same experience for the girls of Girls Inc.”

Schultz remains involved with her alma mater, Penn State University, through a scholarship that she has endowed in her family’s name. The scholarship allows a financially-challenged student from the Pittsburgh-area, where Schultz is originally from, to attend a Penn State satellite campus with the hope of eventually attending main campus.

Schultz currently resides in Delaware County, Pa. She enjoys visiting her daughter in Vienna, Austria where she is a Fulbright teaching assistant during the school year. In her free time, Schultz enjoys traveling, visiting her extended family, who reside all over the United States, and is an avid cruise enthusiast.