Next Up Columbus 2024: Dr. Christian Espinoza Santos

Dr. Christian Espinoza Santos
Dr. Christian Espinoza Santos

Photo courtesy of Dr. Christian Espinoza Santos

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Dr. Christian Espinoza Santos
Age: 39
Profession: Worthington Industries
Neighborhood: Westerville
Education: PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. May 2014. BS in Materials Engineering, San Jose State University. December 2009. Six Sigma Green Belt, University Villanova, October 2017. Program Management, American Management Association (AMA) October 2016. Human Center Design, Luman Institute, 2016.
Community Involvement:
• Hydrogen Technology Committee Member, Compressed Gas Association (CGA), January 2023 to present.
• Hydrogen Economy, US expert to ISO/TC 58/TF 1, January 2023 to present.
• Board Member of See Kids Dream, January 2023 to present.
• President and Founder of the Association of Peruvian Students at the University of Illinois, January 2012 to January 2013.
• Founder of CU Entertainment, University of Illinois Startup, May 2013-present
• Member of the American Ceramic Society, January 2019 to present.
• Member of the Society of Hispanics Professional Engineers, January 2006 to present
• Member of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE®), January 2023 to present.
• Member of The Hispanic Chamber of Columbus (HCC), January 2023 to present
• The Columbus Young Professional (CYP), January 2023 to present
Motto: “Know Your Value” Remember, everything you’ve gained—your experiences, education, and background—contributes to your unique value. You are who you are because of the time, effort, and experiences it took to become you. Represent yourself well to others. You bring something unique to the world that no one else can, and that is your true value.
Connect: LinkedIn

Give us a snapshot of your path
I was born and raised in Lima, Peru until I was 14. After losing my father to political violence, my mother and I found a new beginning in San Jose, California, where we were granted political asylum. I spoke no English and my mother and I truly started over with nothing. We faced significant challenges, but I was determined to succeed.

Thanks to the guidance of a local mentor and my family’s unwavering support, I navigated the college application process, eventually earning a Bachelor’s in Materials Engineering from San Jose State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. This set the stage for my career, which has included roles at Boeing, NASA, Tyco Electronics, Fiberlite Technologies, Owens Corning, and Hyperion Materials and Technologies.

Throughout my journey, I have been fortunate to contribute to several strategic initiatives, hold five patents, and have secured six trade secrets. However, my greatest pride comes from the impact I’ve had on scientific advancement and environmental sustainability. Currently, as the Technology Manager at Worthington Enterprises, I focus on driving technological innovations and process improvements.

I am continually inspired by the mentorship I received during my teen years and strive to uplift others in as many ways as I can. I mentor young professionals in STEM, am an active board member of See Kids Dream, and am co-leading the establishment of the inaugural Latinx Employee Resource Group at Worthington Enterprises.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Every week kicks off with a good cup of coffee and a moment to reflect on my goals and outcomes. I think about the legacy I want to leave and the impact of my work. I do my best to be conscientious and strategic in my decisions, always considering the bigger picture.

Whether it’s creating a more inclusive work environment or developing products that enhance and improve people’s lives and promote the health of our planet, I want to help make the world a better place.

Family time is also a must; my family inspires me to stay focused on my journey and I am driven to ensure a bright future for them.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I am the product of someone’s kindness. In my early days in the U.S., I was fortunate to cross paths with a local executive who became my mentor and provided invaluable guidance. He helped me see beyond my socioeconomic limitations and taught me the importance of perseverance, significantly influencing my academic and professional journey. Without my mentor, my future would have taken a very different path. While many people in similar situations continue to struggle, I am in a different place because someone took the time to invest in me and helped me shape a better future for myself.

Then there was my PhD advisor, who would often say, “Do it the German way.” She explained that this meant working with precision, attention to detail, quality, and excellence in execution. She wanted me to take pride in my work and did not accept anything less than my very best. Her advice instilled in me a dedication to excellence in everything I pursue.

These mentors played a vital role in my development, and now I strive to pay it forward by mentoring others. The impact of their guidance serves as a testament to the transformative power of investing in others.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
Running is my way to relax and align with my values. It gives me time to think and recalibrate what’s truly important. Over the years, I’ve completed seven marathons, each one pushing me to expand the limits of my body and see what I can accomplish. There is a great running community here in Columbus, and I have met so many incredible people along the way.

One of my most memorable experiences was helping my girlfriend complete her first marathon. Crossing the finish line with her was a moment of pure joy and pride. Running together has become a special bond for us.

Locally, I enjoy running at Antrim Park and Sharon Woods Park, and with the German Village Running Club. When I am traveling for work, I always start by going for a run. It’s the best way to get to know a place and helps me stay grounded when away from home.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
As someone who is very particular about food, eating is a full experience for me. My absolute favorite spot is my mother’s kitchen; nothing beats her cooking. If someone wants to try authentic Peruvian cuisine, I recommend Peru Taco Bar in Dublin. Another gem I’ve recently discovered is Local Roots in Powell. Their pizza is unmatched. Both places offer incredible flavor, texture, color, and quality, along with a full experience.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
Growing up in Lima, my family owned a clothing store, and I loved helping with everything from inventory management to store upkeep to the books. I imagined myself owning a business one day and managing people.

As I grew up, I discovered I had a strong aptitude for math. I became fascinated by how math intersects with understanding human behavior, leading me to explore fields where I could apply this knowledge. This interest guided me toward materials engineering, especially I was strong in chemistry as well. My mentor was working in applied materials and I decided to follow in his footsteps and improve people’s lives through technological advancements. I pursued a Ph.D. in materials engineering, driven by a desire to understand product innovation.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
Right now, I’m really into the Harvard Business Review. I appreciate the depth and breadth of topics they cover, from leadership and innovation to organizational behavior and strategy. It’s a fantastic resource for staying updated on the latest trends and research in the business world. The insights I gain from HBR help me refine my approach at work and keep me informed about new methodologies and ideas that I can implement.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
To be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award is a tremendous honor, and I want to dedicate it to my mother. When we moved to the U.S. and struggled to make ends meet, she took on multiple jobs, insisting that I focus solely on my studies during high school. Her dedication to providing a dignified life for me and giving me everything she could so that I could succeed is one of the most profound things that someone can experience. My mother’s guidance and unwavering support have been my north star. In moments of exhaustion and defeat, she was always there to lift me up. In moments of triumph, she always keeps me humble. Her sacrifice means more to me than words can express. I stand on her shoulders, and this award is a testament to her incredible strength and love.

The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2024 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Edison Brewing Co. for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2024” »


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