College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

From Ames to Global Business Leader

CBE alumna makes a name for herself at 3M

Karen Albertson was raised in Ames, went to Iowa State and has a cyclone family who bleeds cardinal and gold. Now, the 1983 graduate in chemical and biological engineering is traveling the world in her role as a Integration and Life Science Business Director in Separation and Purification Sciences Division at 3M.

As Albertson continues to see success in her career, she is grateful for her time as an engineering student at Iowa State, which coincidentally almost didn’t happen.

Being an Ames native made Albertson a little hesitant to consider ISU for college because she wanted new experiences. Over time, she realized it was more realistic for her, and she couldn’t walk away from a school known for her two favorite subjects: science and math.

For three and a half years, Albertson was a biology major at ISU, preparing to apply to medical school. After talking with her brother, who studied civil engineering at ISU, she realized she wanted to do more math-related problems, so she changed majors to chemical engineering.

“When I switched from pre-med to engineering, I discovered I loved solving problems, working in teams and having that challenge which has been fascinating ever since.”

Albertson was active on campus holding leadership roles in her sorority, was an ISU cheerleader and lead several organizations including ISU’s Homecoming committee. She also worked at the Gateway Center to help cover her college expenses, while she was earning her engineering degree.

Albertson’s observes that in 2016 ISU professors and administration are very supportive of students’ diverse experiences and the needs of today’s student body, so as a result, are providing more financial help.

While she was at Iowa State, Albertson says her classes, sorority experiences and campus leadership roles taught her a great deal about how to work with a team and be a good communicator. These skills have proven invaluable in her career, where she enjoys leading teams for 3M that are diverse in culture, experience and capabilities.

Throughout her career with the company, she has worked in 3M’s diverse business groups and those experiences have taken her across the country and world, including living abroad in Malaysia for four years.

Albertson began her career in Knoxville, Iowa as a process engineer in manufacturing and progressed in manufacturing management roles with increased responsibility. She transitioned her career into general business leadership where she has been working for the past 17 years. In her current role, she leads the life science business in the Separation and Purification Sciences Division. In this business, she works closely with the global team to serve the biopharmaceutical and medical device markets.