Judy Riffle, PhD in polymer chemistry, is the Chief Technical Officer of NALA Membranes. She joined Union Carbide Corp. as a research scientist upon graduation working on synthesis and manufacturing of non-ionic polyols and their incorporation into polyurethane foams. She joined Thoratec Laboratories Corp., then a biomedical start-up company, in 1983 as Vice President of Research and Development. While at Thoratec, she co-directed (with Robert Ward) the synthesis and processing of polyurethanes that later became the materials for their FDA-approved ventricular assist devices and vascular grafts. Dr. Riffle joined Virginia Tech in 1988 as a professor of chemistry, where she taught and conducted research for 31 years. During that time, she mentored 68 graduate students who are now working mostly as polymer chemists and engineers in U.S. industries.
She is now a Professor Emerita of Chemistry. In her last few years at Virginia Tech, Judy focused her research and graduate group on new membrane materials for purifying water. Virginia Tech, in collaboration with the University of Texas, patented the membrane technology, and NALA licensed the patents. Dr. Riffle retired from Virginia Tech in 2019 and joined her daughter, Sue Mecham (CEO and also a polymer chemist/engineer) to start NALA Membranes. NALA’s goal is to commercialize an entirely new set of water purification membranes that are chemically durable against strong oxidants including chlorine to avoid biofouling and to enhance “cleanability”.