Alumni of the U: Jeremy Horton

“While I received a first-class engineering education at the University of Utah, two seemingly unrelated bits of wisdom I learned at the U have been on my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first was from my fluid mechanics professor, Dr. Joe Klewicki, who once told me that “great adversity gives birth to great opportunity.

To say that COVID-19 has presented us all with great economic adversity is certainly an understatement. I can’t think of a person or business that hasn’t been negatively impacted by this pandemic, and my business was no exception. But in the midst of this adversity, opportunity was indeed born. Working with one of our customers, we realized that we had the equipment and ability to produce nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing. The need for nasal swabs around the world was massive. The only problem was, we had never made one before! And the technical challenges were only outdone by the urgency of the need. In the fight against COVID-19, days matter.

This brings me to my second bit of wisdom, courtesy of U Emeritus Distinguished Professor Dr. Larry DeVries: ‘You’re only as good as the team you’re on.’

Despite the daunting challenge ahead, the 250-strong Flexan team dove right in. Raw materials were bought. Tooling was created. Manufacturing processes were developed, scrapped, and redeveloped. In the midst of Utah’s record job losses, we hired 50 more employees. We tried, failed, and tried again. There were early mornings and late nights—many of them. But our team never gave up, and soon we were successful. Within just a few weeks of kicking off the idea, we were shipping over 100,000 nasal swabs per day to testing locations around the country. We continue to do so today.

I am extremely proud of the Flexan team for accomplishing the nearly impossible. I’ve always enjoyed my industry because I feel like I’m helping mankind. That feeling has been amplified over these last several months. I am grateful to part of the battle against the worst viral outbreak in a century. And I’m grateful for how my U education prepared me for this unprecedented time. I understand now that my degree wasn’t just about learning formulas, equations, and scientific principles. The greatest value I got from my U education was learning teamwork, purpose, leadership, sacrifice and much more.”