During the first hour of her introduction to Corning, Charlene Smith knew she had walked into someplace special.
It was 1990 – it also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day – and Charlene, a newly minted Ph.D. fresh from a post-doctoral assignment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Pittsburgh, had driven to Corning, N.Y. for a job interview. She was sitting in the Sullivan Park office of George Beall, one of Corning’s most venerable and prolific inventors.
“He was taking samples off his shelf of materials he and his teams had invented, and explaining to me what they were,” she said. “He’s a geologist, and here he was, asking me what I thought about them as a chemist. He’s such a gracious, wonderful person, and I was flabbergasted at how cool everything was.”
Other people she met that day – including Jim Dickinson and Nick Borelli, who would become lifelong friends – confirmed her impression that Corning’s breadth of materials science expertise could launch her into a fascinating research career with profound implications in various industries.
“It was amazing to me that the CorningWare® that was in my parents’ kitchen, the catalytic converter substrate in my car, optical fiber – all these things that were already part of my life had come from one company,” she said.
“Had I gone to work for an oil company or a drug company, I would have been working with other chemists exactly like me. But on that day, I saw how chemists, geologists, optical physicists, material scientists, manufacturing engineers, and so many others found a way to work together to invent things.