The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Turning dreams into success

The journey of Joe Desimone
Desimone receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from former president Barack Obama.
Quinn Rolland
Carbon’s product of 3D printed shoes in partner with Adidas.

Where do dreams start? For Joe Desimone, it started in his freshman advanced science class.

Joe Desimone’s teacher was teaching the class about pH, but he was unsatisfied with the content of the lecture. That day, he went home, searched for pH in an encyclopedia, and taught himself about pH. 

The next day in class, as Desimone and his students continued their topic, he inserted himself into collaborative questions about pH and eventually ended up teaching his teacher and the rest of the class, according to Desimone and another student in previously in his class.

Joe Desimone’s explanation felt natural. He became fired up about it because everyone understood what he had taught.

“It gave me a high, and I knew I could explain difficult things like science and chemistry to others in a way they would understand, which is the essence of teaching. I knew I was good at it and enjoyed it,” Joe Desimone said.

From then on,  Joe Desimone never lost his passion for science. 

Polymers are a subject that lends itself to concrete societal examples. Whether it’s polymers used to make computer chips, in packaging, or in advanced cars, you can relate it to everything in society, and I fell in love with that aspect.

— Joe Desimone

Born and raised in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, Desimone is the middle child of three. He was the first in his family to attend college. His father’s journey from Italy to serve in the U.S. Navy and his older brother’s choice to become a Union electrician taught Desimone the value of unique career paths and the success they can bring. This additionally helped to inspire Desimone with his own parenting skills. 

Phil Desimone, Desimone’s son, elaborates on his father and how he inspires him in his everyday life.

“My dad has always taught me to persevere, not take no for an answer, and to never give up. I think he’s always been super giving and is always looking for ways to make our quality of life as wonderful as possible. He’s taught me to have that same view for my family and kids today,” Phil Desimone said.

Desimone loved science but was unsure which field he wanted to major in. He considered becoming a pre-med student but felt it was too competitive. Additionally, biology was a confusing topic for Desimone, especially the concept of “Junk DNA.” This confusion, however, led Desimone to choose chemistry.

After high school, he majored in chemistry at Ursinus College, deepening his passion for science. He particularly enjoyed polymer chemistry because of its practical, real-world connections. The practical aspect of chemistry is what continues to drive Desimone.

“Polymers is a subject that leads itself to concrete examples in society. Whether it’s polymers used to make computer chips, packaging, or polymers used in advanced cars, you can relate it to everything in society, and I fall in love with that utilitarian aspect,” Joe Desimone said.

When 25-year-old Desimone joined the University of North Carolina as a faculty member, it marked the beginning of his journey as an entrepreneur. Throughout his journey, Desimone had several breakthroughs, especially in environmental chemistry, where his team produced Teflon without the usage of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS), also known as  “forever chemicals” that are generally found in products like Scotchguard

These chemicals are incredibly harmful to the environment since they cannot degrade. This breakthrough was licensed to DuPont, a major producer of Teflon, who supported the idea of creating a more environmentally friendly version of PFAS. However, other employees wanted to stick to the original process of making Teflon. As a result, those against the idea ended the business.

“That’s why I became an entrepreneur. Because I saw our work being sat on for the wrong reasons, and that pissed me off,” Joe Desimone said.

Later on, another business opportunity for Joe Desimone was born. He made dry cleaning solutions more environmentally friendly, using carbon dioxide instead of harmful chemicals, and started a company with some students and raised $60 million. They opened many eco-friendly dry cleaners. Unfortunately, many failed due to pricing being too expensive and the company was unsuccessful.

Joe Desimone didn’t give up. He eventually created a biodegradable medical device and sold his company to a bigger medical device company. This was his second successful business.

Joe Desimone’s final startup business with his colleague was his biggest success; this company’s name is known as Carbon.  The company focuses on 3D printing and found many printers were about 2D printing rather than 3D. Joe Demisone and his team created the technology needed to run Carbon. 

Today, Desimone and his business continue to thrive.

He has received many awards in his career, including the U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (1997), the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention (2005), the Lemelson-MIT Prize (2008), the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2009), and more.

Desimone is still pursuing his dream today. He strives to inspire others through his success.

“I think people are really inspired by Joe’s entrepreneurial spirit. A lot of scientists in academia do their work, they do their research, they’ll maybe publish some papers and just sort of leave it at that. But that’s not enough for Joe. If he invents something exciting, he doesn’t just want to publish a paper about it, he wants to go and start companies and turn them into products that get out there and change people’s lives, and not a lot of people do that,” said Steve Nelson, the launch CEO and co-founder of Carbon.

Joe was the one that gave me that entrepreneurial bug that really showed me how awesome it is to do startups.

— Phil Desimone

Desimone’s story teaches others the importance of following your passions, having determination, and figuring out your strengths and weaknesses.

“The only way you find out what you’re good at is to find out those things you’re not good at,” Joe Desimone said.

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About the Contributor
Quinn Rolland
Quinn Rolland, Staff Writer
Quinn Rolland is a senior at Carlmont High School and is in her 3rd year in Carlmont's journalism program. Quinn spends her time hanging out with friends when she isn't working as the Social Media Content Manager for Scot Scoop   Twitter: @QuinnRolland8

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