Dr. Constantinos Nicolaou of Sun Chemical Performance Pigments.
This year’s recipient was Dr. Constantinos Nicolaou, senior scientist and lab director at Sun Chemical Performance Pigment’s Cincinnati, OH headquarters.
“I wasn’t aware I was going to get the award,” Dr. Nicolaou said. “It was great to receive it.”
Mr. Nicolaou’s colleagues say Dr. Nicolaou’s intellectual curiosity and analytical abilities made him the ideal choice for the honor.
“He is a very hard-working, dedicated professional who is interested in what he does,” said Russell Schwartz, vice president, colors technology for Sun Chemical Performance Pigments. “He likes solving problems. He doesn’t want to just do an analytical task, he wants to solve the problem.”
“I’ve known him for about 30 years, when I went to our Rosebank facility in Staten Island as operations manager and he was an analytical scientist,” said Edwin Faulkner, director – cosmetics & classical pigments, Sun Chemical Performance Pigments. “He is to analytical chemistry what Colombo was to detective work – very quiet and unassuming, but always comes up with the answer. He is a very talented analytical chemist, and now that he is lab manager, he has brought his analytical and managerial skills to his whole team.”
Introduction to the Pigment Industry
Dr. Nicolaou’s journey to the pigment industry, let alone the U.S., was unique. He was living in London, having received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1974 from the University of North London. While working at a restaurant, he met his wife Christine, a New Yorker who was visiting friends in London. They quickly struck up their own relationship, and after trips back and forth, Dr. Nicolaou moved to the U.S. in 1975. Within a few months, he was hired as a chemist by Sun Chemical’s pigment division.
“I originally worked with Sun Chemical in Staten Island, where we manufactured pigments,” he recalled. “I worked with Maria Darocha, who was the lab manager. She knew a lot of people in the industry, and as a result, I visited a lot of labs, and also began collaborating with GPI’s division in Carlstadt.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Nicolaou continued his education in the evening, receivinghis master’s degree in organic chemistry from NYU in 1980, and his Ph.D. in 1987.
Aside from working on inks for pigments, Dr. Nicolaou’s work extended into different disciplines, including cosmetics and environmental testing.
“We developed a lot of different methods, such as FDA for FD&C Red 6 and 7 for cosmetics,” he noted, “I did a lot of environmental testing for our Muskegon, MI plant, and developed methods for identifying components of inks.”
Dr. Nicolaou’s talents have also been utilized by industry groups. Ms. Darocha got him involved in NPIRI, and Dr. Nicolaou began working with NPIRI in the early 1980s, going to meetings and discussing methods and issues. He also worked with the Dry Color Manufacturers Association (now Color Pigments Manufacturers Association) on PCBs for pigments and inks.
Dr. Nicolaou was promoted to senior scientist for the analytical department of Sun Chemical Performance Pigment’s Cincinnati, OH headquarters in 1998, and is now senior scientist and lab manager in Cincinnati.
Dr. Nicolaou is thankful for the people who have worked with him over the years, and noted a few people who have influenced his efforts.
“My influences over the years include Maria Darocha, Dr. Hugh Smith, director of research at Sun Chemical, who got us involved with working with customers outside of Sun Chemical, and Russell Schwartz, who is more methodical and to the point,” Dr. Nicolaou said.
Dr. Nicolaou has found the world of pigments to be a fascinating one.
“The study of pigments is an evolved science, combining chemistry and physics,” Dr. Nicolaou noted. “You have to characterize particles by size and shape, and there’s a lot of physical chemistry and color chemistry.”
The study of pigments has changed dramatically over the years.
“There is probably more new technology and work being done today,” Dr. Nicolaou noted. “It’s completely different today. In Staten Island, there used to be an instrument called the spectrograph that was first built in the 1940s. It was 20 feet long, and it was used to measure metals by using direct arc emission spectrometry to vaporize the metals in the sample. The resulting radiation was captured on a photographic plate, and you would be able to see the lines on the plate to determine what metals were in the sample. It would take a full day to do one sample. Now you can do 20 samples in an hour. It’s a huge change.”
Dr. Nicolaou also keeps active outside of work. He and Christine have two daughters, Julia and Anna. He used to play soccer and tennis, and now he and Christine travel a lot to Europe.
Dr. Nicolaou enjoys his work, and the challenges he faces, and he looks forward to continuing solving challenges.
“I do a lot of customer support, and do a lot of problem solving,” he said. “It’s a challenge because everything is unique, and there are always new things going on.”