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Leon Binitie-Cassidy: Good Chemistry

Written by Kermit Pattison

Leon Binitie-Cassidy, 26, didn’t know much about Minnesota when he started looking at colleges.

He grew up halfway around the world in Lagos, Nigeria, and the North Star State wasn’t exactly on his radar. His knowledge of Minnesota boiled down to two essentials—the Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett. Then another thing caught his attention—the ranking of the University’s chemical engineering program.

That was enough to bring Binitie-Cassidy from West Africa to Minnesota in 2006. He vividly remembers, sometimes painfully, the demands posed by the engineering curriculum.

“The discipline required to pass any class in CSE and get your degree lives in me to this day. Heaven knows, we had homework, and homework, and homework,” Binitie-Cassidy said.

He also led a busy life. He joined the National Society for Black Engineers, a fraternity, and a service organization called Students Today Leaders Forever. He worked for the University’s Disability Services.

He won an array of awards, including the President’s Student Leadership and Service Award, Outstanding Multicultural Ambassador, Distinguished Kappa Alpha Psi Scholar, Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award, and the Outstanding Service Award from the National Society of Black Engineers.

“I can honestly say that the friends and the connections I made through those experiences have had the greatest impact on the person I am today,” he said. “It helps you understand how to interact with people from different backgrounds. Those experiences made my life richer.”

He worked as an undergraduate research assistant—an experience that proved invaluable in preparing him for the workforce. “It opened my eyes to how research is done and how to analyze and translate trends in experimental data from a lab pilot scale perspective to a suitable commercial scale perspective,” he said.

After graduation, he landed a job as a product development engineer at 3M. He later was recruited by PPS in Houston to work as a project engineer building a $150 million natural gas processing plant in his native Nigeria. He now works at G2, another Houston firm, which helps to design and manage oil and natural gas facilities and pipelines across the United States and Canada. He hopes to return home someday and work in Nigeria’s burgeoning oil and gas industry.

“Something I remember vividly,” said Binitie-Cassidy, “was during my senior year. One professor pointed out that you may have the best idea or the best invention, but as an engineer if you do not communicate your ideas to business people and laypeople in non-technical terms, you’ll never get anywhere. I feel that captures everything about my education in Minnesota. It prepared me not only from a technical and professional standpoint, but also how to communicate effectively with different types of people.”