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York College greased the skids for this Chemistry grad’s success

Lisa Williams stands with her arms crossed.

Next time you’re hanging upside down on one of those gigantic amusement park rides, ask yourself: How does the park know this is safe? Lisa Williams, a 2008 graduate of York College of Pennsylvania and recipient of a Year of 50 Spartans award, can tell you.

“Amusement park safety is one area where oil analysis is commonly used,” she says. “Oil analysis is also used as a predictive maintenance strategy in dozens of other industries including aviation, alternative energy and automobiles. Think of it as a ‘blood test’ for your critical equipment.”

She adds, of her work at her firm, “AMETEK Spectro Scientific equips the onsite engineers and mechanics with oil analysis equipment that evaluates important parameters of the oil such as wear levels, viscosity, and chemical properties. Our equipment helps engineers evaluate whether the oil is still in good condition to properly lubricate the parts on the machine. It also helps engineers predict any latent problems on the equipment, often in plenty of time before anything catastrophic can happen. My chemistry background helps me assist our clients in evaluating the data as I work closely with them to develop their maintenance programs and make critical decisions on their high-value assets.”

Lisa’s degree in Chemistry prepared her for this important job in a 17,000-person firm, starting with properly equipped classrooms at York College. She says, “I had an analytical chemistry course my junior year, and the room was packed with high value instruments that are relevant in the real world. I had the chance to use instruments I use on a daily basis now.”

Unique opportunity on campus

Lisa credits the internship she had between her junior and senior years at York College for setting her up for professional success. “Classroom knowledge is important, but the reality component of the internship can’t be simulated,” she says. “Putting your knowledge to use and contributing to the company is key. It gives you a sense of why you are learning what you are in the classroom.”

For Lisa, her internship at MRG Labs, where she picked up practical experience as a lab technician, led to a job offer before she even graduated, and her first step into management, as a lab manager. MRG Labs was a startup in York College’s J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship, which Lisa thinks offers another unique opportunity.

“What is awesome is all the collaboration that goes on in this space,” Lisa says, noting another tenant helped MRG Labs make a project happen, which eventually led to a patent, The StemThief. “At the time, we worked with York College students and the 3D printing firm, 3Delivered, in the J.D. Brown Center. This collaboration allowed us to quickly test our ideas and move on to the next thing if it didn’t work. The collaboration shaved months off the R&D portion of the project and helped us quickly bring the product to market, which is critical for any business, but especially in small business.”

Education is what you make of it

Lisa says her York College background prepared her to serve as a technical lead on two standards developed by the ASTM International Committee, which authors standards for in-service grease testing and oil testing on industrial equipment. “York College taught me to write well,” she says. “We had many presentations and lab reports.”

This work, Lisa says, helped her get to know many professors, and they helped her learn to articulate clearly on difficult topics, which has been a great benefit. These relationships last. Lisa says that although it’s been more than 10 years since she graduated, “I could drive up to York College today, sit down and talk with my professors. I made great relationships that continue to this day.”

Still involved at York College as President of the Chemistry Industry Advisory Council and a Day of Giving Ambassador, she tells students their education is what they make of it. “York College allowed me to dig deep and broaden my horizons,” she remembers. “They won’t force you do to anything, but will support you to go as far as you want.”

As part of the school’s 50th anniversary as a four-year institution, Lisa received one of the Year of 50 Spartans awards, recognizing outstanding alumni who have demonstrated dedication, excellence, professional achievement, and most importantly, a commitment to staying engaged with York College after graduating.

“I was scrolling through the other award winners, and I’m honored to be part of such a prestigious group,” she says. “York College is doing great things.”