ChBE and MSE alum taps into skills developed as a Lehigh Engineering graduate student to blaze her own trail to career success and self-fulfillment

At its core, engineering is the art of problem solving.

But to practice that art—and practice it well—requires mastery of a more modest skill, says engineer, entrepreneur, professor, and Lehigh alum Keisha Antoine ’01 ’04G ’07 PhD.

“The most important thing I learned as a graduate student at Lehigh was how to discern a question to be answered,” says Antoine, who earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and her master’s and PhD in materials science and engineering in the Rossin College.

In her experience, Antoine says, she was much more successful ironing out the details of a situation and fully defining the problem before she set out to find a conclusion. And to do so, she often reached out to her colleagues for support.

"The strong relationships I developed with my advisor and my peers in my research group helped me find direction when I was defining the question my research was going to solve," she says.

Those relationships were particularly important to Antoine as an international student from Trinidad and Tobago.

While an undergraduate, she took a research position at Lehigh’s Emulsion Polymers Institute and completed an internship at Rohm & Haas Chemical Company (now The Dow Chemical Company).

During her graduate studies, she worked with Himanshu Jain, the T.L. Diamond Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Applied Science and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh, researching glasses with varying compositions and their reactions when exposed to beams of light with different wavelengths.

As a newly minted PhD, she headed to Corning Incorporated, one of the world’s premier glass companies, to lead technology development teams and research new materials. During her eight years there, she earned two patents describing methods of controlling atomic structures in substrates and glasses.

Antoine considers herself a lifelong learner, and at that point in her engineering career, she took a step back to think about how she could continue to make meaningful achievements.

Asking and answering the question, “What do I want to do in life?” required the same problem-solving strategy she uses in her engineering work, Antoine says.“If you spend some time with yourself to get to know your wants and goals, that can help you a lot in making personal decisions.”

In a moment of reflection, she said to herself: I feel like I’ve done my time here, I’ve learned as much as I can learn and perhaps I can grow.

Fueled by that desire, Antoine decided to look for opportunities in a new part of the country. In 2015, she moved cross-country, from New York to Texas, and started a technical consulting company in Houston. Her company advises equipment and parts manufacturers and other businesses in the chemical process industries.

“The transition from being an employee to now having to create the business is not a simple change,” she says.

A few years later, she also began working in wastewater treatment equipment sales to  strengthen her entrepreneurial skills. This new facet of her career, Antoine says, is helping her to learn flexibility and engage in networking to make personal connections with others in her field.

She also realized that one of her wants was to give back to upcoming generations of engineers. She’s doing that as a chemical engineering lecturer at Prairie View A&M University.

Antoine says her teaching style is influenced by her interactions with professors when she was a student at Lehigh: “I saw that I could talk to the professors and they would be welcoming to me and were considerate of what I said.”

While Antoine admits that it can be challenging to grow in multiple directions—and acknowledges having to, at times, fend off feelings of self-doubt—she pulls from her experience to face the hurdles as they come. 

"Doing a Master's and PhD at Lehigh taught me autonomy, perseverance, and how to be confident in my ability to generate the knowledge needed to solve a problem.”

—Michelle Rodriguez ’21 is a freelance contributor for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

Keisha Antoine

Keisha Antoine ’01 ’04G ’07 PhD

Doing a Master's and PhD at Lehigh taught me autonomy, perseverance, and how to be confident in my ability to generate the knowledge needed to solve a problem.
Keisha Antoine ’01 ’04G ’07 PhD