Noel Craig

In his element: A Phoenix soars worldwide because of his Chemistry career

After graduating from UW-Green Bay with a Chemistry degree and laboratory experience in 2016, Noel Craig is in his element at SEAL Analytical—a world leader in design, development and the manufacturer of equipment that aids in analyzing of materials and compounds specifically for environmental applications.

It was perhaps a bit nostalgic for Craig to be back at his alma mater recently, helping to set up new equipment in some of the same lab spaces he worked at while he was a student. His return was to install a new water analyzer and train students how to use it in Assistant Professor Mike Holly’s (Water Science) labs.

Craig’s story is not unlike other students who attend. He had different ambitions when he started at UW-Green Bay…

“I actually wanted to be a dentist! I had a chance to shadow some dental students and I didn’t fare too well. Fortunately, I was taking Organic Chemistry during that semester and fell in love with it. I loved the challenge of balancing an equation and solving the pathway of a mechanism.”

He had many opportunities to explore his new-found passion.

At UW-Green Bay, Craig worked alongside Prof. Kevin Fermanich and a graduate student to collect freshwater samples. “The samples collected were from freshwater streams in the Green Bay Watershed via automated samplers,” he said. “Commonly the water would become very turbid due to rain and we wanted this to test for Total Phosphate. The Total Phosphate was found by performing a Kjeldahl Acid Digestion on the samples and analyzing them colormetrically—which is what it sounds like: the more phosphate in the sample, the more color that would be formed during the analysis.”

After a couple of months, he was able to assist graduate students with their research. He started his own research project, finding the different levels of Water Extractable Phosphorus in soils from different types of tilled farm fields.  He found a relationship between less tilling and less water extractable phosphorus.

Craig says he can’t thank Prof. Fermanich enough for the opportunity and experiences he gave during his time as a laboratory technician. And it certainly helps him with his current role at SEAL—helping customers with the work they do in their labs, troubleshooting their chemistry and instrumentation over the phone or e-mail. This can sometimes take just a couple of minutes or it will take all day. When the questions are a bit more complex, it makes this part of the job extremely rewarding.

During the pandemic he also leads installs and trainings virtually.  The instrument for UWGB that was manufactured by SEAL Analytical is shipped to the customer’s lab and a virtual training is scheduled for one to three days depending on the customer’s prior knowledge.  The first day is spent unpacking the instrument, installing the software, running diagnostic testing, and giving an overview of the hardware.  The next couple of days are spent going over what they would like to analyze like Nitrate, Phosphate, and others.

Craig wanted to work for SEAL for many reasons.

“My drive to constantly challenge myself and work for a company where I’m recognized as a person and not just a number,” he said. “The travel that I’m able to do for installations and trainings is a great perk. Before starting at SEAL, I hadn’t even left the country. Now, I have traveled to Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and almost every state.”

“I never stop learning! I’ve learned so much about engineering.  A majority of my work is with chemical instrumentation.  This instrumentation requires an understanding of electronics, physics, software, and chemistry.”

His advice to current students is to take advantage of the opportunities and resources that are available at the University, including clubs. While it was difficult to push himself to join the clubs that were available on campus, they led to leadership opportunities, which he says kick-started the skills he uses daily. They also led to friends that he will have for the rest of his life.

Story by Charlotte Berg, intern, Office of Marketing and University Communication