Paul Theobald Gives Back — and Pays It Forward

Paul Theobald (’82, chemistry) is a living testament to the notion that it’s not just what you know. What counts is what you do with what you know.

That philosophy—combined with a strong work ethic plus a desire to both pay it forward and give back—has done him well. Since graduating as a self-described average student, he has attained impressive positions in the chemistry field, and is now leading a major medical diagnostic concern in combatting serious diseases. 

Along the way, Paul drew upon the experiences, people and programs he encountered at the College of Science to drive his success: a learn-by-doing ethos; a no-nonsense practicum; small class sizes; and close working relationships with professors.  

“That motto, the learn-by-doing experience at Cal Poly Pomona, being a scientist and having labs...that's how we learn,” he asserts. “But while science drives the learning, you have to do it in a way that you understand, when developing products and working with multidisciplinary teams, and appreciate how all those things come together.” 

It’s easy to see why Paul Theobald has chosen to give back to his alma mater, not just financially, but by returning to share his success secrets with students as well. 

Early on, Paul had ambitions of being a chemical engineer. Back then, CPP was one of the few places available to him that offered such a program. So, in 1977, he moved from his home in San Ramon, California, to begin classes here. 

By his own admission, his first year in chemical engineering was less than stellar. “Really, I am the last person that would ever be a good engineer,” he says with characteristic candor. Fortunately, some sage advice from his department chair convinced him to change his major to chemistry, and he was soon on his way.

Like so many, Paul thrived amid the more direct professor-student environment at the College. To be sure, it was in great part because of his work with the late Dr. Ernie Simpson, his senior advisor Dr. Patrick Mobley, or professors Scott Pattison, Chuck Millner and Vasu Dev, that Paul quickly found gainful employment. It’s also a big reason why he has stayed in touch with the school for 30-plus years, and why he chose to come back and inspire students by speaking to The Chemist in Industry class. 

The Cooperative Education Program, founded by Dr. Simpson, was a springboard that helped Paul get his first job as an associate chemist at Beckman Instruments in Brea, California. There he initially worked with the Immunochemistry Development Group building assays and platforms that measured blood proteins and therapeutic drugs.

“For my senior project with Dr. Mobley I worked on the development an immunoassay for insulin,” he says. “That project led to my placement in the internship program at Beckman.”

After working at Beckman for 18 years, Paul moved back to the Bay Area. A series of key positions in the medical diagnostics field then led him to become the general manager of Monogram Biosciences, part of Labcorp, an innovator of diagnostic products for treating major diseases such as HIV and COVID. 

Paul sees a direct link between his practical scientific education and success in the working world. He believes it has enabled him to tie science to business, science to operations, and ultimately science to healthcare. “In the end it’s about meeting the health needs of people,” he says, “and it's a great reason to come to work.”

“You don’t need to be at the top of your class to be successful,” Paul insists. “What you're learning every day becomes a part of the fabric of your knowledge and your experience. That allows you to do things you would never have thought you were ever going to do.”

Living his truth and the principles of his CPP experience, Paul Theobald has become a regular contributor to the College of Science Dean’s Excellence Fund. “I want to inspire future scientists,” he shared. “Because I see the value that science brings and the rewards it brings to people.”

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If you’re interested in exploring ways you can give back to the College of Science at Cal Poly Pomona, please contact Development Director Bill Burrows at or (909) 869-4160.




Paul Theobald and Ernie Simpson

Paul Theobald (right) is pictured here with his former professor, the late Ernie Simpson. The picture was taken in 2018 during a campus visit.