Alumnus Profile: Edward P. Harbulak

The Impact, Fall 2003


Edward (Ed) P. Harbulak ’59, ’62, of Allen Park, has been involved with the University for almost half a century. Armed with bachelor and master of science degrees in chemistry from the University, he spent his approximately 30 working years primarily in electroplating research and then later applying his expertise to numerous automotive engineering applications at Chrysler Corporation.

His career began in 1962 with General Electric, where he was involved in the development of luminescent phosphors for fluorescent lamps. From there, he moved to Owens-Illinois Glass where he worked in the Special Projects Group on a variety of glass-related problems. He found his calling in electroplating research at M&T Chemicals, where the first of his 12 patents was for a zinc-electroplating process. Other patents followed through the years for various stripping, nickel electroplating and brass plating processes.

After M&T, he joined Chrysler Corporation, where he developed an electrochemical diagnostic test, which in less than 10 minutes provided more information about the performance of chromium-plated exterior automotive components than a 48-hour accelerated-corrosion test being used. The new test was then used by the entire plating industry. The development won him the American Electroplaters Society’s Don Wood Award for the best technical paper in 1980 and the Society of Automotive Engineer’s Award for Excellence in Oral Presentation for a paper presented at its 75th Congress.

During Chrysler’s 1980 financial difficulties, he joined the Udylite Division of OMI International where he developed that company’s first commercial electroless nickelplating process.

In June 1984, he returned to Chrysler Corporation as a materials engineer in the Electroplating Group of the Metallurgical Engineering Department. There, he served as a liaison with the styling and engineering design groups to insure the feasibility of designs for platability. He also was involved with writing plating-process standards and working with suppliers on problem solving. He retired from DaimlerChrysler in 1991 as a senior materials engineer.

He was a member of the American Electroplaters Society, American Chemical Society and SAE. He is a past chairman of the Inorganic and Physical Chemists Group of Detroit.

Looking back, he says, “When I decided to major in chemistry, I had no idea that my career would be in the field of electroplating and corrosion. Those were topics that were barely mentioned in my coursework. But the chemistry, math and physics courses I took at (then) U of D provided me with an excellent foundation on which to build the new skills and additional knowledge I needed to succeed in the technical world.”

To his surprise, his non-technical courses also proved beneficial.

“I had no idea of the tremendous number of reports, proposals and publications required in the working world,” he explains. “The ability to write coherently and speak with ease in public can be almost as essential for success as technical expertise. The required courses in composition, literature and public speaking, which at the time seemed useless to my perceived needs as a chemist, proved to be of significant benefit.

“Even in retirement, I still benefit from my education as I work on numerous hobbies and am involved in volunteer work. My many fine instructors prepared me for a successful career and also instilled moral and religious principles that are even more important in today’s world.”

A longtime University supporter, Harbulak remains involved with UDM; he recently spoke to one of the General Chemistry classes.