Vijay Swarup

Vice President of Research and Development, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
BSChE ’86  BSCH '86

For his outstanding career achievements, leadership, and contributions to the field of engineering research and development in the petroleum and chemical industries

Born to “strong” parents who taught him that education is the “differentiator,” Vijay Swarup says his father convinced him early in life that “you don’t have to be the tallest or the fastest. The one thing that will separate you is knowledge.”

Swarup has lived by that lesson all his life. As one of four children born to parents who emigrated from India in 1959, Swarup was raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where his love for math was born alongside his passion for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.

“My father, who was an electrical engineer at Bell Labs, and I did the math to compile player and team statistics, such as batting averages, earned-run averages and fielding percentages.” Today, those numbers appear instantly on TV screens and online, but not back in the late 1970s when the Phillies were on a winning streak. The fascination with baseball stats led to the intriguing notion of infinity, which also captured Swarup’s imagination and led to his passion for science.

Fast-forward to 2017, and you just might catch Swarup on national television as a spokesman for ExxonMobil’s energy research.

In one of the commercials airing, Swarup shares one of the big challenges that he and his team are tackling: “to capture the Co2 before it’s released into the atmosphere.” He then describes some of their success so far. “We captured more than 16 million tons in 2014 alone. That’s the equivalent of eliminating the annual emissions of more than 1 million cars.”

Speaking from his home base in New Jersey, Swarup says communicating about science is a big part of his job in research leadership. “We’re trying to educate about energy and discuss the challenges with delivering reliable, sustainable, economic and renewable energy solutions,” he says. “The ultimate solution is going to be driven by technology. We do a lot of research in carbon capture, but a lot more is needed because the engineering challenges are quite complex.”

With his team of 735 researchers, Swarup is excited about what can be achieved through collaboration with the diverse science disciplines in his organization.

Swarup was introduced to engineering challenges at Purdue while taking on the daunting task of a double-major in chemical engineering and chemistry. “It allowed me to study two things that I really enjoyed,” he recalls. “What you take away from a place like Purdue is that it teaches you how to learn and compartmentalize. You focus on one thing and then on the next thing.”

Teamwork was at its most interesting during his undergrad years, Swarup says, when the teams were assigned rather than chosen. He says that what he learned then about how teams work best still applies to his work today. “You learned to leverage different people’s skills,” he says. “That’s still the challenge. The more complicated the problem, the more varied skills you need. The meshing of skills is so important. Those little kernels of knowledge germinate over time.”

Swarup works just as diligently and creatively to see that problems will continue to get the scientific solutions they need long after he retires. To that end, he serves on the Board of Trustees for the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.

“We need scientists,” he says. “The beauty of the science museum is that it attracts children to science and increases their interest and enjoyment. I’m honored to be on that board. Math and science skills make everyone more competitive in the workplace, and we don’t have enough kids who are in love with math and science.

“My dad instilled in me a lot of interest in math and science. We need to get that spark going in children.”

Career Highlights

2014-present Vice President of Research and Development, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
2013-2014 Manager, Corporate Strategic Research, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
2012-2013 Manager, Planning and Business Development, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
2010-2012 Vice President, Basestocks, Specialties and Asphalt, ExxonMobil Lubricants & Petroleum Specialties Company
2008-2010 Global Olefins Marketing Manager, Americas Basic Chemicals Commercial Director, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
2006-2008 Global Technology Planning Manager, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
2005-2006 Global Marketing Manager, Hydrocarbon Fluids, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
2001-2005 Global Manufacturing Technology Manager, Fluids, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
2000-2001 Customer Service Supervisor, Intermediates Americas, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
1998-2000 Market Development, Intermediates Americas, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
1997-1998 Business Planner, Market Planner, Intermediates Americas, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
1995-1997 Group Leader, Market Technical Support, Intermediates Americas, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
1994-1995 Product Development Engineer, Intermediates Americas, ExxonMobil Chemical Company
1990-1994 Research Engineer, Agricultural Chemicals, Imperial Oil Limited
1987-1990 Engineer, Corporate Research, Exxon Research and Engineering