A Conversation with Nathan Silvernail, PPG

Nathan Silvernail is the technical manager for Substrate Protection at PPG’s North American region in Springdale, Pennsylvania. He manages industrial electrocoat and pretreatment. Nathan received a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Notre Dame before starting his career with PPG in 2008. He is the owner of six patents with more pending.


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PF: What excites you about the electrocoat industry?

NS: It’s exciting today because both performance requirements and regulatory constraints are becoming greater and more complicated. This is further highlighted due to the number of car builds in North America by global non-U.S.-based OEMs. There are opportunities for solutions to these issues.

PF: What led you to get involved in the coating industry?

NS: I wanted to use my chemistry background to solve practical problems. When I was 16, my father and I “repaired” a vehicle with Bondo, and to my surprise two years later it was in poor shape. It sparked my interest in metal treatments and coatings.

PF: How does it feel to have six patents and another seven pending patent applications to your credit? Is it a time-consuming process?

NS: I am happy to be part of the teams that create value for PPG. When I decided to pursue the finishing industry rather than academia, it was a tough transition to work on patents as opposed to peer-reviewed articles. The process is very different than I anticipated as a student. It is time consuming and requires you to think differently than you do when formulating coatings.

PF: You write a lot of white papers and facilitate research. Is that a lost art in the finishing industry?

NS: I don’t believe it is a lost art; there is a great deal of research that is occurring with the suppliers to finishers. It is challenging today to balance creating useful public information versus proprietary information. I do think it is important to help educate our industry; it is good for business to be informed.

PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

NS: Burger King. I learned that if I wanted some control over my career that I needed to learn all of the jobs. I wanted to understand not only what my customers and colleagues need, but their motivations.

PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?

NS: I would support STEM education focusing on the underrepresented populations. I have two young daughters, and having spent many years at universities and now the coatings industry, it is clear to me that certain groups need more exposure to science and engineering and good science role models early in their education.

PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?

NS: A 1984 Plymouth Horizon. At the time as a 14-year-old in South Dakota, it was my dream car. Today, if it were practical, I would drive a full-size pickup truck.

PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?

NS: I was sure that I would be an astronaut.

PF: Night owl or early bird?

NS: An early bird.

PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?

NS: With my family, hiking in one of the local parks.

PF: Best way to keep competitive edge?

NS: Talk to as many people in and around the industry as possible and read as much as possible.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?

NS: It is not novel, but I set short- and long-term goals. When either goals are failing, or bound to fail, I make changes.

PF: Three greatest passions?

NS: Family, science education and the outdoors.

PF: Most unique office décor?

NS: My Kelly green Notre Dame coffee mug.


Get to Know Nathan

Family: Wife Melissa and daughters Eleanor and Louisa

Favorite hobby: Hiking

Favorite movie: Wes Anderson movies  

Favorite book: Books by Erik Larson

What’s playing in your car CD/radio: “Winter Fortress” by Neal Bascomb 

To learn more visit PPG.


Originally published in the April 2017 issue.