Engineering Alumna says Communication, Teamwork Among Most Important Skills Learned at the UI

Andrea Zeek
UI Strategic Communication

Alyssa Reinhardt says studying at the University of Iowa taught her about more than what’s on her chemical engineering diploma.

Reinhardt, a 2011 graduate of the College of Engineering, says becoming a good communicator and an effective team player were two of the most important things she learned at the UI. And now as an operations team leader at DuPont Industrial Biosciences in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she looks for these skills in potential employees.

“You’re so much more successful working with other people than in your own silo,” Reinhardt says. “And Iowa definitely does a good job teaching that.”

Originally set on going to medical school, Reinhardt, who is from Round Lake, Illinois, says she changed her mind after delving deeper into her chemical and biochemical engineering studies.

“I realized I could still use what I was learning in chemistry and biology—all of the subjects that I love,” she says. “But with engineering, you have a lot more potential career options.”

Reinhardt also was drawn to the problem-solving aspects of engineering, which is why she says her experience working at DuPont has been so rewarding.

Reinhardt started interning at DuPont in the summer after her junior year of college and began working part time during her senior year. When she graduated, she had a full-time job as a process engineer waiting for her.

“It was a really nice transition,” she says. “I felt like I had a good knowledge base about the plant and the business before I even started working full time.”

DuPont’s Cedar Rapids plant manufactures enzymes used in home and personal care, grain processing, and animal nutrition industries. Enzymes are biological molecules, such as proteins, that cause or accelerate chemical reactions. As a process engineer, Reinhardt worked in granulation, a chemical process in which salt particles are coated with enzymes to make a final product used in powdered dish and laundry detergents. During that time, Reinhardt had the opportunity to work on designing and building a new, $34 million granulation process expansion in Cedar Rapids. She also spent six weeks living in Finland, where DuPont has a sister site, and has traveled to California, where the DuPont Industrial Biosciences research and development team is located.

“The way that the engineering team is structured here, you are in control of your development,” she says. “I’ve been able to work with several mentors and do a lot of on-the-job training.”

Reinhardt took on a new role as an operations team leader in August. Now, she leads a team of 15 people focused on the supply chain aspect of the company, such as raw material forecasting, ordering and receiving, and final product packaging and shipment.

“This will be a great new challenge for me to further develop management and leadership skills and learn more about the business,” she says.

Reinhardt says she encourages aspiring engineers at the UI to have open minds about career options and to take advantage of every opportunity they have as students.

“I really wish that I would have studied abroad,” she says. “Now that I travel for work, I think if students get opportunities to learn in another culture, definitely do that.”

University of Iowa engineering alumna Alyssa Reinhardt is an operations team leader at DuPont Industrial Biosciences, where she leads a team of 15 people focused on the supply chain aspects of the company, such as raw material forecasting, ordering and receiving, and final product packaging and shipment. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Reinhardt.