Interview with Sus Ikuta
By Dwyer Stuart and Mat Ovadias
Sus Ikuta has been a consultant for SUNY-ESF since 2006. He started teaching undergraduate classes 2013. Undergraduate typically first get to meet Professor Sus in their Intro to Bioprocessing class in their Fall Semester. While SUNY-ESF has been his primary employer for the majority of the past decade, Professor Sus has had a variety of positions in the field before he arrived to SUNY-ESF.
Sus’s involvement in the field of chemical engineering started while he was in college at the University of California, Berkley. He acquired a summer job with a small chemical company, Bio-Rad Laboratories, that, among other products, made heavy water. Ikuta entered college as a chemistry student and was persuaded by a close friend to become a chemical engineer, stating how easily his credits from chemistry would transfer over.
After graduation in 1967, Sus continued to work for Bio-Rad Laboratories. After three years of working for the company he found another employment opportunity in Italy. He was hired by the Italian company SIRS SPA to work in the synthesis of cortical steroids. Ikuta worked for the company for nine years until accepting a job in the Bahamas.
In the Bahamas for eight years, Ikuta worked on finding alternative plant sources for extracting cortisone for the cortical steroids that the company produced. At the time there were two ways to extract the needed material. One source was from a specific species of Yams in Mexico, which had a stranglehold on its exportation of the plant, as the molecule only grew in the plant under specific environmental conditions. The other source of the material was in France, where the product was isolated from the adrenal glands of an animal. This producer also had stringent control over who got to utilize the cortisone and how much companies could buy. Sus was part of the group to find a new way to synthesis the necessary molecule. Instead of using Yams or Adrenal glands, the group worked on the method of extracting the molecule from agave. Agave has other practical uses in the field of bioprocess engineering, as it is also one of the primary ingredients of tequila.
Ikuta’s last job before becoming a consultant at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry was at Bristol-Meyer Squibb. He held the position of Senior Engineer at the company for over twenty years. While a Senior Engineer, Ikuta had a number of duties working for the company. He performed the role of Senior Project Engineer for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Global Engineering for four years. For fourteen years he held the role as the Senior Engineer in the company’s Biologics Facility Building.
Sus Ikuta’s experience in the field shows today in his classes as he is able to extract information he learned from his worldly exploits. Ikuta is a perfect example of what one can achieve in the field with ambition and the desire to experience new things.