Daniel Fonseca, B.S.

Daniel Fonseca

Daniel Fonseca

Lead Technical Service and Development Specialist

The Dow Chemical Company


B.S., Biochemistry, Albright College

Daniel Fonseca knows his way around a paint aisle. He’s on top of the latest trends, from indoor paints that won’t scuff to outdoor paints that repel dirt. That’s because Fonseca works with a Dow team that develops high-performing raw materials that give paints the ability to stick to the wall, look great, and last a long time—or at least until a new color trend inspires a repaint.

As an undergraduate, Fonseca majored in biochemistry at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. Today, he is a lead technical service and development specialist at Dow. He’s also chair of the professional development subcommittee for the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Technician Affairs.

Fonseca never expected to find himself in the architectural coatings industry. But he couldn’t be more thrilled with where he landed. Much of his success stems from his eagerness to take on leadership roles on projects and initiatives around the lab and across Dow’s Collegeville site, seeking responsibilities that have extended beyond those in his official job description. “It’s important to be open to different opportunities and not be afraid to shift from your original plans,” Fonseca says.

Sometimes when we're younger, critiques can feel discouraging. Digesting feedback well is a skill that is learned.

As an undergraduate biochemistry major, where were you planning to take your career?

I wanted to go into the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve always been interested in medicine, and I liked the idea of working on life-saving drugs. But then I conducted summer research with an environmental chemistry professor, which I really enjoyed as well. We monitored the water quality of two lakes in the Reading area. That experience led to an invitation to enroll in a Ph.D. program in environmental science. At that point, I felt like I had already been in school for so long. I had a fiancée, and I was ready to start working. I turned down the invitation. With my research experience, I landed a job as an environmental lab technician at United Chemical Technologies in Bristol, Pennsylvania. I took on many responsibilities beyond my job description, including leading a research project to help a textile client determine whether their dyes were affecting local fish. I published the methods I developed for extracting and analyzing dyes found in fish tissue.

Was there anything else about that summer research experience that had an impact on your life or career path?

The professor I worked with was an excellent mentor to me. We continue to keep in touch. I’m paying it forward by mentoring younger professionals at Dow. I currently have four official mentees and, unofficially, many more. I like having the opportunity to help others. Also, two of the mentees are based in Brazil, which is helping our office build connections with that region. I’m learning from them, and they are learning from me. I grew up speaking Portuguese because my parents are Portuguese immigrants. So, I was a natural fit to take on that role.

What is your current job at Dow like?

When I first joined Dow over 10 years ago, I worked as a chemical technical professional. For much of my time in that position, I focused on our paper coatings projects. In more recent years, I’ve moved into a project management role in architectural coatings. So, where before I spent 90% of my time in the lab doing bench work, now it’s closer to 40%.

With the rest of my time, I work with marketing to learn about what customers are looking for. I then develop methodologies to test which of our latex binders might help give paint those desirable properties. Right now, I’m investigating how to best enable self-cleaning paints, meaning a paint that repels dirt or can easily be cleaned with rain. In the market, there is currently no standard method for assessing that capability. I’ll be presenting my approach at the American Coatings Show and Conference 2024 in Indianapolis.

You’ve also taken on leadership roles in many professional organizations. You brought Dow’s Hispanic Latin Network to your region. And you’re very involved with ACS’s Committee on Technician Affairs. Do you have any tips for chemical technical professionals who are interested in leadership or other professional development opportunities?

Yes, come check out our Committee on Technician Affairs! We offer many career development opportunities. For example, I’ll be moderating a webinar in spring 2024 to help participants learn about how ACS can specifically help chemical technical professionals reach their career goals. We have also released a mentee playbook—guidance on what to look for in a mentor and how to approach the mentor-mentee relationship.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

All feedback is good feedback. Early in my career, I was often discouraged by feedback. Looking back, I now recognize that my supervisor at the time was trying to give me the tools I needed to grow. Sometimes when we're younger, critiques can feel discouraging. Digesting feedback well is a skill that is learned. It’s not easy. But over the years, I’ve found that really taking in feedback has helped me to become more self-aware and to advance in my career.

This profile has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this interview are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.