Meet the Scientist - Josephine Cheung

Director of Research & Development

Josephine's Career

Josephine Cheung’s career has been a fulfillment of a lifelong dream to reduce the detrimental effects of industrialization on the environment. She first made the connection between industry emissions and greenhouse gases back in high school, when her chemistry teacher inspired her to investigate the correlation between power plant emissions and acid rain. Since that time, she has worked with industries to reduce their environmental impact. 

She earned a doctorate degree in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, and directed her attention and effort at the cement industry, helping producers improve sustainability while still reducing cost. Curtailing CO2 emissions in cement manufacture is a global challenge, and her contribution has been dramatic. 

A prolific innovator, Josephine has pioneered numerous groundbreaking sustainable product solutions for the cement and concrete industry. She is a holder of more than 20 patent families, and has been a category creator in her field. Her area of expertise is cement additives, which have helped cement manufacturers around the world realize a 5-15% reduction in CO2 emissions. 

Of particular note is the creation and commercialization of a cement grinding and strength enhancer, DEIPA, at the turn of the millennium. DEIPA has been adopted widely in the industry and is among the most important of such enhancers in the world today. Since its introduction, the sales of DEIPA has grown to more than $367 million in 2020. According to a new Global Info Research Report and the 360 Research Report, sales are forecasted to have a compounded average growth rate of roughly 15 - 16% over the next five to six years, reaching more than $1 billion by the end of 2026.

Josephine has also made her mark beyond the lab. She has a track-record of transforming concepts to products, and energizing cross-functional teams to bring new products to market. In 2014, she moved from an individual contributor role to a leadership role as the Director of Research for Cement Products. In 2018, her role expanded to cover Global Technical Services.

Josephine has won awards for her contribution to the cement and concrete industry. In 2011, she received the Grace Award for Technical Excellence for the development of molecules that strengthen cements. This award honors the highest level of technical achievement with measurable commercial impact in her company. In 2019, the American Concrete Institute presented  Josephine with the Wason Medal for Materials Research, for co-authoring a paper on the use of chemical admixtures to enable successful manufacture of sustainable concrete. 

Josephine is also invested in  the training and education of the next generation of scientists and engineers. She has inspired many students to take a career in science and engineering, and has spurred many scientists and engineers to take an interest in conducting research into cement.

Her enthusiasm and passion are infectious. While cement may be common, and research in this field might not be on the radar of most scientists, she believes that incremental improvement in its manufacture can have a significant impact on the environment.


Community involvement

Josephine is an inspiration inside and outside the company. As the parent of a child with chronic medical conditions, she is one of the mothers who founded the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, TrachCare, Inc. TrachCare was created to support families of children with tracheostomy or ventilator support needs to connect and share resources. Josephine was also active in similar community organizations such as Kids with Tubes to support families of a child with a feeding tube and the Parent-to-Parent Program of the Families TIES (Together In Enhancing Support) of Massachusetts to provide emotional support and practical suggestions to parents of a child with a disability or chronic illness. 

Josephine continues to provide personal support to parents with children who have chronic medical issues. 


Industry influence

GCP Applied Technologies, formerly Dewey and Almay and W. R. Grace, introduced breakthrough technologies to the world in reducing grinding energy and providing better performance for cement and concrete, more than 80 years ago. The company contributed to the reduction of CO2 emissions before sustainability was a widely known societal issue.

Under the leadership of Josephine, GCP scientists continue to develop and commercialize technologies with the ultimate goal of leading the industry towards cement production with zero carbon emissions. Josephine has a 25+-year track record of developing, commercializing, and promoting sustainable technologies that improve the properties of cement and concrete while reducing CO2 emissions

As a recognized thought leader in making sustainable cement and concrete products, Josephine has forged relationships with industry leaders, trade associations, scientific organizations, as well as academic institutions to bring more advances to the field . This work has enabled producers to build faster, make structures more durable, and reduce the environmental impact of construction.

Josephine is one of twenty international scientists selected to contribute to the United Nations Environmental Program’s Sustainable Building and Climate Initiative report, which addresses the most viable low-CO2, eco-efficient cement-based materials for the future of construction.

She has served the research community in different capacities, including: 

  • Editorial board member of the most prominent research journal in the field of cement and concrete research, Cement and Concrete Research 
  • Steering Committee and Industrial Advisory Board member of Nanocem, which explores the underlying behavior of cementitious materials
  • Industrial member/advisor for the research consortiums, Virtual Cement and Concrete Testing Laboratory, Innovandi, and the MIT CSHub 
  • Industry advisor for the Federal Highway Administration’s BAA Exploratory Advanced Research program and the National Science Foundation’s GOALi program 

She has been invited to be a keynote speaker at notable conferences, including the International Conference on Grand Challenges in Construction Materials and the International Conference on Superplasticizers and Other Chemical Admixtures in Concrete.