From China to Libertyville, USG manager helps younger generation

Claire Yu, research and development program manager at USG Corp. Corporate Innovation Center in Libertyville, said she has enjoyed her journey from China to Libertyville, mostly because she has spent a lot of time encouraging young people to pursue careers in math and science.

For her, the journey was a natural. While at USG, she used her own education in math and science to garner six U.S. patents. For example, one patent is on a new plastic composition that has a low gloss for dashboards inside vehicles, so it is not reflective. Another patent is for sound-absorbing ceiling tiles often used in hospitals, classrooms and elsewhere.

"I always wanted to do the best I can," said Yu, 42. "I always like to keep my eyes open on what is next."

Yu was born Qing Yu in Beijing, China, and grew up on the campus of Tsinghua University. Her parents were professors there.

"I was always surrounded by those role models," she said. "It was always strongly encouraged that we learn math and science."

She earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at Peking University in China and then, at 22, she decided to go to the United States and attended the University of Maryland to earn a master's degree and then the University of Illinois at Champaign for a Ph.D. in chemistry. She also changed her first name from Qing to Claire to simplify it, she said.

She then began her career at General Electric and later went to USG, she said.

"When I was growing up in China, it was very important to get good grades," she said. "But the popular kids here think if you get good grades, or if you are good in math here, then you're a nerd. I have two daughters myself and I am always encouraging them to get good grades and it is something to be proud of."

She has taken that same mantra to others over the years, which eventually has earned awards, including the most recent from the Manufacturing Institute. She is an honoree of its fourth annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Production (STEP) Ahead Awards, which recognizes 130 women nationwide.

The Manufacturing Institute developed the STEP Ahead initiative to address the industry shortage of available, qualified workers, especially women. The STEP Ahead Awards help recipients to be role models in their companies, communities and networks. On April 21, Yu and others will be honored at a reception in Washington, D.C. The STEP Ahead Awards program will highlight each honoree's story, including their leadership and accomplishments in manufacturing.

In addition, Yu is an active member of USG's WomenRock! Employee Resource Group, which helps women as they move forward in their careers. Yu also is a member of the American Chemical Society and has participated in the United Way Speaker Initiative, where she works to inspire young women to pursue STEM and manufacturing careers.

"I'm grateful to be recognized by an organization that encourages women to pursue careers in manufacturing," Yu said. "The STEP Ahead initiative's focus on mentoring the next generation of women to become manufacturing leaders is something I value on a professional and personal level."


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