Since Srikanth Kommu earned degrees in chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, he thinks of everything in terms of chemical engineering.
“I use the principles of transport phenomena for managing the flow of money,” he said. “What are the sources of money and how can I grow business revenue and profit? Reaction engineering taught me to look critically at problems and identify the rate-limiting steps. I use those principles to understand the bottlenecks and barriers to progress.”
Kommu is executive vice president and chief operating officer at Brewer Science, where he is responsible for the company’s multimillion-dollar semiconductor, lithography materials and packaging solutions businesses. Before that, he was chief technology officer and senior vice president at SunEdison Semiconductor, previously known as MEMC Electronic Materials.
Kommu, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis in 1996 and 2001, respectively, recently received the 2021 EECE Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering.
“Dr. Kommu has had a very successful career in industry over the past 25 years and is globally recognized as a top expert in the semiconductor industry,” said Vijay Ramani, Roma B. & Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor and vice provost for graduate education and international affairs. “We are grateful for all of his contributions to the profession and the EECE department and are proud to have him as an alumnus. This award is a fitting tribute to his multitude of accomplishments.”
Kommu credits the concepts he learned in his engineering courses with helping him to innovate, lead and mentor, whether that’s in the lab or in the boardroom.
“Who I am today I strongly feel is because of the teachers, the students, the culture and the ambiance at WashU,” Kommu said.
Kommu was a doctoral student in the lab of Bamin Khomami, the former Francis F. Ahmann Professor of Chemical Engineering, where he applied the principles of chemical engineering to electronic materials and semiconductors. He also worked with Pratim Biswas, former department chair and Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor, in applying principles of aerosol dynamics to semiconductor reactor design.
“I’m always thinking of something novel and innovative to make a positive change and improve things,” said Kommu, who also completed the General Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2009. “My chemical engineering education taught me how to think critically and ask the right questions.”
In 2012, Kommu joined the EECE Executive Advisory Board, on which he helps provide strategic direction to the department and mentors students. Kommu said he feels obliged to give back to WashU and finds a great sense of purpose in helping others.
“If you have that mindset of helping people and getting that instantaneous but pure satisfaction, focus on that,” he said. “It can be a small thing, but over time helping will become second nature to you. That leads to a very grateful and fulfilling life.”
The Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering honors alumni each year with the EECE Distinguished Alumni Award. Faculty recently hosted the first award ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic, where they honored the 2020, 2021 and 2022 award recipients.