This week we are featuring successful chemical engineer and entrepreneur Dr. Kook-Wha Koh. Born in Korea, Kook-Wha studied Chemical Engineering at Seoul National University. She and her childhood sweetheart Kwang-Kuk Koh came to the US in 1965 to further their study in chemical engineering at the University of Iowa. They chose Iowa because of their interest in membrane separations, which was being pioneered at the time by department chair Karl Kammermeyer. Kook-Wha earned her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1970 with her thesis “Crystallinity and Denisty in Permeation of Carbon Dioxide and water Vapor through Polymers.” Following their time at Iowa, the Drs. Koh moved down to Texas where Kook-Wha completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University where she worked with heart surgery pioneer Michael DeBakey on his work with artificial hearts.
After Texas the Koh’s moved to Detroit where Kook-Wha established Chrysan Industries in 1977, headquartered in Plymouth, MI. Chrysan (which is the Korean word for chrysanthemum) is a global supplier of automotive, industrial, and aerospace lubricants and specialty chemicals. In 1980 the company was awarded its first patent – #4,218,329 – in metalworking fluid technology. The company also holds patents metalworking fluid technology, “formulated cutting oils, and synthetic coolants.” The company supplies to General Motors and Ford, and exports and distributes their products in Asia, Africa and South America.
Kook-Wha has now retired, and she and her husband spend their time traveling. They have the goal of visiting all of National Geographic’s 50 places everyone should see in their lifetime. They also use their retirement to “promote and ensure equal opportunities for minority business enterprises and women-owned businesses.”
Chrysan Industries. (n.d.). Chrysan Industries, Inc. Global Supplier of Automotive Lubricants and Specialty Chemicals. https://www.chrysanindustries.com/en/about-us#history-of-chrysan
University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Drs. Kwang-Kuk and Kook-Wha Koh. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa. https://engineering.uiowa.edu/alumni/awards/honor-wall/distinguished-engineering-alumni-academy-members/drs-kwang-kuk-and-kook