Charlie Blackwell

Degree: Physics PhD

Current Job: Product Development Manager at Suominen Corporation


Why Physics?

Growing up in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, Charlie graduated from public high school and entered Florida A&M University. Originally wanting to major in Genetic Engineering, he ended up choosing physics. "I chose physics because I wanted the flexibility to choose from a variety of careers and I was able to get a full academic physics scholarship along with an internship at a physics laboratory." he says.

After choosing his major, Charlie was told that he needed to not only get a BS or MS in physics, but should go all the way for a PhD. During the summer before his senior year, he came to the University of Minnesota to intern in Professor Jim Kakalios's lab. This turned out to be a pivotal experience for Charlie. "That was an experience that convinced me that experimental condensed matter was the field I was interested and excited about, and a field I could succeed in," he says. Professor Kakalios stated how well of a job he had done that summer, and encouraged Charlie to apply to the graduate program at the U of M.

Gaining Versatility

At the U of M, Charlie continued working with Professor Kakalios, securing an RA position. While at the U of M, Charlie took advantage of the many facilities on campus: using the Nano Fabrication Center to deposit films, the characterization tools in Shepard Labs, and the many instruments available in Tate Laboratories itself. He also minored in Nanoparticle and Nanoscience Engineering. "I wanted the versatility to add to my experience and career opportunities," he says.

While he was a graduate student, he also worked as a technical aide at 3M, in the physics group of the Corporate Research Materials Lab. This experience allowed him to directly use the lab experience he developed at the U of M. 

Out Into The "Real World"

After graduating with his PhD, Charlie returned to 3M, working as a Senior Product Development Engineer in the Aerospace department. It was his first time working outside the condensed matter field. "[I] relied on my problem solving skills developed during my training as a physicist," he says of this time. After six years at 3M, he joined Suominen Corporation as a Product Development Manager. At Suominen Corporation, Charlie designs nonwoven materials. The nonwoven materials produced at Suominen Corporation are used in a variety of hygiene and healthcare applications, such as wet wipes and swabs.

 As a project manager and R&D resource, Charlie contributes to a wide variety of projects. He believes his physics degree has helped him suceed in industry. "The [physics] degree has allowed me the opportunity to work on a variety of experiences and to become the subject matter expert on many projects because of the ability to learn new subjects in depth," he says.

Charlie Blackwell