Mix the arts in with anything to do with the sciences and Warren Lazar, vice president of research and development for Polypore Inc. and past president of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, is a happy man.
Lazar, 52, dabbles in about every field of science imaginable and as a former recording musician with the Creedence Clearwater Revival band his interest in music and the arts in general is no less broad.
When Lazar is examining a friend's painting, as an example, he is apt to be seen first examining the ingredients used in the artist's work, and only after completing his examination looking at the work in terms of its artistic qualities.
One might expect this kind of behavior from a man with a doctoral degree in molecular chemistry and six patents who lists quantum physics as one of his major hobbies.
To judge him by this approach, however, would be to dismiss too quickly his other interests as a musical composer, keyboard player and pianist, explorer for gold and self-proclaimed "nature boy" who sees life as a "futurama," an exploration of new possibilities whatever they might be.
For Lazar, while the arts and sciences may be unique disciplines, they are also intertwined disciplines, offering all the fullest opportunity for total creativity.
"I believe the sciences represent a unique discipline and the arts mirror that discipline," Lazar said. His intertwining of these disciplines is what is reflected in his capacity for creation, not only in his role in the development and manufacture of microporous polymer-based products and customized inks for Polypore, but in his songwriting and sound production talents as well.
Lazar, recently honored for innovations in technology by the Southern Arizona Industry and Aerospace Alliance, comes from a family with strong science and arts foundations. His father was a mathematician and musician, his mom worked in the medical field and played the organ at church, his sister plays the piano, is a vocalist and teaches math and his brother, who owns his own business, plays the drums. His grandfather, a horticulturist, developed the apricot and nectarine through cross breeding.
During Lazar's days in community college he began playing the keyboard with a band called Keystone and linked up with other musicians at a place called the New Orleans House in Berkeley, Calif.
"A cocktail waitress came up to me one night and said a note had been handed to her by someone in the audience to pass on to me," Lazar said. "All that was on the note was the name Ralph Gleason and Fantasy Records. I called him up and found out he was the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine."
That became Lazar's connection to the big-time music business and playing with such artists as Bozz Skaggs, Elvin Bishop, Stevie Nicks and Jackson Browne.
The playing continues today, mainly with his participation in a group called the West River Band.
On the professional side, Lazar's career began in 1971 as a part-time research and development chemist with Dow Chemical Corp.'s new products division in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Three years after receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Northern California in 1972, he went to work for Fiberboard Corp.'s research and development division in Antioch, Calif. In 1976 he received his doctorate in molecular chemistry.
When Fiberboard decided to dissolve its research group in 1978, prior to being sold to Louisiana Pacific, the technologies the company had developed were purchased by three partners who started a separate company.
Lazar was hired to head the research and development group, which became Polypore, a research and manufacturing operation specializing in the development and manufacture of microporous polymer-based products and customized inks. The company produces more than 140 items related to the electronic printing industry and the overall electronics market.
As an example, Polypore produces the products that allow the Xerox color copier to produce color prints. Besides Xerox, Polypore's clients include IBM, Panasonic, Sony, Fuji and Intel.
The company, which has grown from 14 employees and less than $1 million in revenues to 50 employees and revenues of nearly $5 million, maintains a strong presence both in North America and the Pacific Rim with customer service and manufacturing supported by the Tucson operation. About half its business is done overseas. A sister company, Polypore Europe, located outside Paris, provides customer service in Europe
LCB Worldwide, a Polypore spinoff, markets developed technologies.
"It's 'a small company, but one that is getting ready to spread its wings," Lazar said.
LCB Worldwide is preparing to build a pilot plant at its 4601 S. Third Ave. location as a first step toward establishing a full research and manufacturing facility, perhaps 40,000 to 45,000 square feet, with 10,000 square feet for research alone. The company is looking at sites now and could end up in Oro Valley with additional manufacturing facilities on the East Coast, Asia and Europe, Lazar said.
One of the triggers to this spreading of wings by LCB Worldwide is a new "magic sauce" the company has created for water-borne adhesives, coatings and composites that is free of harmful solvents or toxic materials. It would provide a substitute for most of the conventional adhesives, paints and other composites containing these toxic materials in such areas as the automotive and aerospace industries and in the process save companies thousands of dollars, Lazar said.
"We're sitting down with people like Lockheed Martin now," but the technology has much broader applications, he said.
Lazar's patents and the ability to take something out of thin air, put it to paper and bring it to commercial application, whether in the arts or sciences, are things he takes great pride in.
And like an explorer looking for new worlds to conquer, Lazar continues to seek professional fulfillment with new innovations.
His efforts on behalf of both the arts and in the Tucson region's economic expansion have proven fruitful not only in his role as an ambassador to the Arizona Film Commission drawing movie studios to town, but as a member of what is known as the Southwest Arizona Plastics and Advanced Composites Culture, striving to see that the local area shares in the windfalls a $38-billion-a-year plastics industry might throw off.
As president of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council from 2000 to 2002, Lazar brought his experience in the corporate world to bear in getting GOVAC leaders to think of their activities more as a business, said Carmen Feriend, executive director.
"Some people can really divide their time efficiently and some people can't," Feriend said. "Warren has definitely demonstrated he can do that."
During Lazar's tenure, GOVAC held its first Independence Day concert, drawing more than 5,000 visitors, expanded its Musicians in the Classroom program with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, hired a full-time program director, sponsored the first Art in Oro Valley art contest and restructured the board for equal representation of programs and development.
"I really haven't reached personal proficiency," Lazar said. "I believe it's important to share experiences with others. "There's a wonderful thing about that in the arts and sciences, helping develop the intellect of others and providing the road map to where they can be successful."