How One Inventor Chose Skin Science Over Space Programs

Bob Asmus

It all started with Asimov and Bradbury. 3M scientist Bob Asmus first fell head over heels for science with an early interest in books about space, robots and the future. Later, high school chemistry teachers helped pique his interest through exciting in-class experiments. “Things like making gun powder and rocket engines,” he says. “Reactive, exothermic things that would ignite and go boom. And that were probably dangerous.”

A career in health care was the furthest thing from Bob’s mind – he wanted to work for NASA. While attending North Dakota State University to major in chemistry and physics, he was encouraged to take a class in polymers in exchange for scholarship money and an internship at 3M. During his summer internship, he worked on creating graphic films that were applied to tractor trailers.

“The work was interesting enough,” he says. “But the best thing was working with a group of people who were close-knit and who knew how to make the job fun.”

After he graduated, Bob planned to get his Ph.D. in remote satellite sensing and to eventually realize his dream of working for NASA. However, the funding for the program at the space institute he planned to attend had been redirected, so he decided to go back to NDSU for a masters’ degree and pursue a career in industry.

Then, it was back to 3M for a full-time career – one that started in the automotive sector and quickly moved to the health care arena. He hasn’t looked back since.

“I tell new graduates you may not work on what you studied in college. That’s a pretty universal experience,” he says. “A degree shows you are capable of learning. Nothing you will do at 3M has been taught in college.”

After 35 years, Bob is still excited to come in to work and solve problems for health care providers and patients each day. He has developed product lines that can help protect patients by killing bacteria – 3M™ DuraPrep™ Surgical Solution and 3M™ Avagard™ Hand Hygiene Solutions.

His proudest achievement? The development of 3M™ Tegaderm™ Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG) I.V. Securement Dressing, which has been proven to reduce catheter-related bloodstream infection (CRBSI). His most recent product development, 3M™ Cavilon™ Advanced Skin Protectant, can help create a protective environment that supports healing for people with skin breakdown caused by incontinence.

“This business is so complex in so many ways,” he says. “You have to understand skin – it exudes sebum, it sweats, it stretches. We all have different skin. And killing organisms on skin is very different from doing it in a petri dish.”

It’s that complexity that makes coming to work each day interesting. “Everything basically breaks down to a problem,” he says. “And I’m interested in solving problems.”

Social profiles