UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Lentz, a 2010 graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is one of 15 recipients of the 2019 Penn State Alumni Association Alumni Achievement Award.
Lentz returned to Penn State for a ceremony in March to accept the award, given annually to prominent young alumni. While on campus, he met students and gave a seminar talk to share insights on his early career achievements.
“Receiving the Alumni Achievement Award is truly humbling,” said Lentz, who received his doctorate in materials science and engineering. “I’m appreciative and excited to come back to Penn State and accept this honor.”
Lentz is a product development specialist at the 3M Company, where he’s helped make technology improvements in optical films, roll-to-roll processing and abrasives. He is a co-author on two granted and 11 published or pending patents.
He currently works in the company’s coated abrasives department, developing the next generation of sand paper, orbital sanding discs and related products.
“This work is something I feel like can actually benefit someone,” Lentz said. “If I can make something vibrate less, require less force so someone doesn’t have a backache after working eight hours when they go home to their kids, that makes me feel good. I’m using the skills I’ve honed and the position I’m fortunate to have to do something good.”
At Penn State, Lentz studied polymer physics and polymer chemistry. He has worked on diverse projects at 3M, establishing himself as an expert in chemical etching and precision patterning, and serving in leadership roles within the company.
“A theme in my career is I’ve worked on these projects that are seemingly not related, but when you look at the fundamental science there are a lot of commonalities,” he said. “Fundamentally, in materials science you are really trying to understand the kinetics, the motion going on at the molecular scale and how to leverage that to make a useful system.”
Lentz said his time at Penn State helped prepare him for the varied projects he’s tackled during his early professional career. He’s remained active in the University community, serving as the head of 3M’s Penn State University Relations team. In that role, he advocates for Penn State programs, sponsors multiple professors for 3M’s Non-Tenured Faculty Award and leads student recruiting efforts.
“Penn State prepares its students very well,” Lentz said. “Not just in the technical skills, which are important, but also in the soft skills; like understanding how to collaborate, function in high-performance environments, and how to think critically.”