While earning her UW-Madison bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Laura Leonard discovered a passion for problem solving that has served her well as an inventor and leader in the petrochemical industry. Leonard recalls that one pivotal moment came during summer lab, a final course in which all chemical engineering seniors must apply everything they have learned in a series of challenging experiments.
“Professor Thatcher Root must have noticed the spark in my eye as I puzzled over a particular experiment when he told me he thought I would enjoy research and in doing so shaped the decisions I would make as a young professional,” Leonard says. “I have often thought back to that conversation, as the moment I decided to start my career doing pilot plant scale research in an industry where chemical reactions played a significant role.”
After graduating in 2001, Leonard put that interest to work as a development engineer at UOP LLC, a Honeywell-owned company that develops technology for the refining industry. She has risen through several engineering and management roles at UOP, and since 2014, has served as senior product line manager for reforming and isomeriation technologies. Her contributions to UOP include working on its Oleflexand SelectFining processes, which have helped refineries operate more efficiently in the face of chemical and resource challenges.
In addition to authoring numerous scientific articles and presentations, Leonard has served as inventor or co-inventor on more than 25 U. S. patents. “These patents are evidence of my contributions across many of UOP’s product lines, collaboration with my colleagues, and my innovative engineering solutions to commercially relevant issues,” she says.
Leonard is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, having served on its Fuels and Petrochemicals Division Executive Committee and Programming Committee since 2008, and was a member of the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society at UW-Madison. Her professional honors include the 2014 AIChE Industrial Progress Award, the 2012 Indian Chemical Engineer Best Paper Award, the 2012 Honeywell Team Performance Award and the 2007 UOP R&D Role Model Individual Award.
Leonard lives in Western Springs, Illinois. She and her husband, Ken, enjoy spending time with their three young children, Aiden, Eli and Judah, and take pride in helping them develop a love of science and engineering.