Honors Alumni Q&A with James R. Halladay '76

James R. Halladay '76 

Profession: Rubber chemist

Education: James graduated from UK and the Honors program in 1976, earning a bachelor of science degree in physics.

What was your major and are you working in that field today?

My major was physics but when I got out of college, no one was looking to hire a physics major. Everyone was looking for engineers. The first job I got was with a rubber company in Lexington, KY and the technical director got me into the R&D lab and taught me rubber chemistry and formulation. The physics degree has served me well though. For the last 37 years of my career, I worked for a company that makes vibration isolators and dampers for the aerospace industry. The design engineers (mechanical) can’t speak rubber chemistry, but with my physics degree, I could speak their language and understand what they needed, even when they didn’t know what they needed. Part of my success was because I could get out of the silo and communicate with people in other disciplines. 

What was your career goal in college? (If that changed, how?) 

I didn’t have a clue in college what someone with a physics degree could do, but I knew I did not want to teach and I wanted to go into industry.

Who is your hero?

My father, who was a physics professor in the University of Kentucky system.

What motivates you to work hard?

Solving challenging problems and making an impact in the company’s future was my primary motivation. With 19 US patents and many trade secret developments, I think I have accomplished that goal. I have also written many technical papers, chapters for several books, and had a book published in 2020 by De Gruyter, “Bonding of Elastomers."

What is your favorite book to read?      

When I was working in the field of elastomer formulation, I read every book I could find on elastomers and elastomer technology.  Today, I read books like “The Science of Cheese," “Understanding Wine Chemistry," and Molecular Gastronomy."