Range of Experiences Helps R&D Fellow Rudy Koopmans Give Students the Big Picture

A student portrayed Rudy Koopmans creatively in this artistic portrait.

Rudy Koopmans speaks many languages. Born in Belgium, he was raised on Dutch and learned French, German and English. He’s also fluent in the languages of science, business and education. That allows him to share some important insights with students.

 “If you are able to present information in a way that gets away from banality, and present it in a way that people can understand, in a way that explains the context, students are fascinated,” Koopmans said. “They start to see it differently than they saw it before.”

Koopmans is a Dow Research & Development Fellow in Horgen, Switzerland. He has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and a master’s degree in business. He also has worked in Technical Support & Development as well as in corporate functions. His wide range of experiences allows him to see how various things are connected.

“There’s a language difference in the different functions. Marketing people speak differently than technically inclined people, and it has nothing to do with technology or intelligence,” Koopmans said. “It’s necessary to look beyond what you know. You need to think outside of the box, as they say, because the world is bigger than one function. There is a entire world out there. You need to take a step back and have a bigger perspective of what you are doing.”

Koopmans engages students in a number of ways. He teaches a class at a technical high school in Zurich, and also flies to England on a regular basis to teach a course at Leeds University. Plus, he represents Dow in a program at a Swiss university to grant scholarships to top students from around the world. Dow is one of several organizations that provide funds for the scholarships. Koopmans also works with professors to develop projects that students can work on.

“It’s really rewarding,” Koopmans said of his many interactions with students.

One of his favorite things to do is take his high school students to a Dow facility in Horgen to witness a real-world application of the concepts they learn in class.

Rudy Koopmans

“You can talk about making an injection mold or a plastic bag, but it’s different when you see the real thing,” Koopmans said. “It’s fascinating to them to see the machines in operation. When you watch the students, they can start out very skeptical, but when they see this, that changes.”

Helping students see the excitement and potential that are built into STEM subjects is worth everything Koopmans puts into it, even on his own time.

“To me it’s very rewarding. I think it’s also rewarding for the Company, in a number of ways,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done more. We need more people who are bright and can do really good science and technology to address the challenges we have today, which are becoming more and more complex.”

“I like to go shopping. I play volleyball, softball and golf. I love to travel. I also sing in a band that plays shows around the area,” Stangohr said. “If you talk to me outside work, you’d never know I was an engineer.”