ChEs & EnvEs make their mark in industries from energy to agribiz
“Engineering is meant to be hard; that’s normal. But in today’s workplace no one goes it alone.” – Lisa Jackson, EPA
“Everything is new almost every day.” – Hung Phu Chau, Philadelphia Gas Works
By Claire Swedberg
Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, Washington, DC) is one of the most influential ChEs in the U.S., maybe the world. The foundation she built with her BSChE and MSChE in the 1980s, she says, has stayed with her throughout a career path that led her through the EPA, to chief of staff to New Jersey’s governor Jon S. Corzine, then back to work in the area of her greatest passion, the environment. As EPA administrator Jackson leads a staff of 18,000 professionals.
“Who knew!” she says with a smile. “Engineering can lead anywhere. It teaches you to solve problems,” and that is one of her most valuable skills.
Time for the environment
This is a really good time to go into EnvE, ChE or the energy-related sciences, Jackson declares. Her boss, who happens to be President Obama, is dedicated to expanding a “green revolution,” and that will mean lots of work for engineers with sharp minds and innovative ideas.
The government, she adds, is a good place for sharp minds. In today’s world energy is related to environment, and both mean jobs. People of many disciplines and descriptions need to be able to work together. The EPA is encouraging applicants who can work together in a diverse team.
Lisa Jackson: career priorities at the EPA
Lisa Jackson is the first African American, although not the first woman, to head the EPA. She has set her career priorities on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, managing chemical risks, cleaning up hazardous waste sites and protecting America’s water.
When she got her BSChE summa cum laude from Tulane University (New Orleans, LA) in 1983 and went on to an MSChE from Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), Jackson was already interested in the environment. Her attention had been caught by the Love Canal environmental disaster around Buffalo, NY and the launch of the Superfund program, and she wanted to get into the work. “If engineers could design a system that created environmental problems, they should also be able to design solutions to those problems,” she says.
After college she found a job as staff level engineer at the EPA, first at its Washington, DC HQ and later at a regional office in New York, NY. She directed hazardous waste cleanup operations in central New Jersey and helped direct the region’s enforcement division.
Jackson joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2002 as assistant commissioner for compliance and enforcement, then assistant commissioner for land use management. In 2006 New Jersey governor Jon S. Corzine appointed her state commissioner of the DEP.
As commissioner, Jackson was known for her fight against greenhouse gases, her aggressive action on pollution and her open dialogue with stakeholders in the public policy process. She was also an advocate for underserved communities seeking fair environmental protection. Governor Corzine appointed her his chief of staff, but not for long. When he took office President Obama wooed her away to be EPA chief.
Government is great experience
Jackson’s engineering background, she says, taught her to define problems and resolve them. “I think that training is invaluable,” she notes.
She recognized her own energetic drive early in her career. She has always been in government work and encourages engineers to look at positions there.
“I’m a strong believer that the federal government is a great place for young people to get experience early on. In the private sector that could take decades,” she says. She raised two children while expanding her career role at the EPA, thanks in part to the agency’s mother-friendly environment. “The federal government is one place where there’s no parent penalty,” she says.
“Engineering is meant to be very hard; that’s normal,” Jackson believes. “But in the workplace of today no one goes it alone. We’re trying to get diverse teams around a table.” The President, she adds, “likes to see teams that can come up with robust solutions.”
For her own part, Jackson finds that the challenges keep coming. “The President is a great boss. He’s got us working really hard,” she says. At this point in history, she finds Washington, DC an exciting and vibrant place. “Young people are optimistic; they know change can be a very good thing,” Jackson concludes.
Ida Stinson: around the world in remediation for KBR
Good work is being done in the private sector as well as in government. A broad range of industries require engineers with environmental or chemical expertise.
In the engineering and construction services industry, Ida Stinson is an environmental manager for Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR, Inc, Houston, TX). As part of a five-member environmental and sustainability team, she manages remediation and asbestos removal for legacy properties. She also oversees subcontractors, ensuring that their asbestos removal work meets KBR requirements and standards.
Stinson earned her 1986 BS in chemistry at Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA). “I started out wanting to do cancer research,” she recalls. “That’s why I took so much chemistry in high school and college.” She participated in the Minority Access to Research Careers program sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Science, and did an internship at the University of California-Berkeley.
Working in the labs there, she realized that although she was dedicated to chemistry, she was less thrilled about medical science research. “I realized I was interested in doing environmental science work,” she says.
After graduating in 1988 Stinson took a position as a quality control chemist at Johnson & Johnson Medical, Inc (Arlington, TX). She conducted QC and formulation adjustments for latex glove manufacturing and provided tech support to production operators and process chemists.
In 1989 Stinson moved to Tetra Pak Materials (Denton, TX) as coordinator of raw materials, supervising tech support staff and assisting management with supplier customer service relations.
Two years later she found exciting work as an environmental engineer at Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX), responsible for interpretation and implementation of environmental laws and regs as they apply to air permitting, wastewater discharge, storm water pollution prevention and more.
Armed with this comprehensive resume Stinson joined the construction industry in 1998, when KBR offered her an exciting job overseas. For more than five years she worked in Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, London and Algeria. In Bosnia and Herzegovina she was a senior environmental engineer responsible for implementation and enforcement of the Foreign Assistance Act, helping to identify possible impacts the program – the landmine removal part of it, for example – might have on the local environment.
“I got to see how people in other countries did their jobs, often with minimal equipment,” she says. “It was satisfying to see that we were helping a country be restored.” In Bosnia she was the only woman and the only minority on several projects. “Local traditions and views of women in those societies were a challenge,” she says.
In 1999 Stinson went to Macedonia and Kosovo as regional environmental manager for operations. While there she completed an MS in environmental science from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) in 2000.
In 2001 she joined the British Petroleum/Sonatrach In Salah Gas Project in Algeria as project environmental manager. She implemented waste and water management programs and did periodic site inspections and audits.
She returned to the U.S. in 2004 to work as a consultant at TransAlta Centralia Generation/Mining LLC (Centralia, WA). She was in charge of the environmental management system for the largest fossil-fueled power plant in the Northwest. She provided technical direction to the operations group for environmental compliance, liaised with regulatory agencies and reviewed applicability of environmental regulations to operations, maintenance and support activities of the 400-employee coal mine and plant.
A year later Stinson moved into her current job as environmental manager with KBR. Today she’s keeping up-to-date on existing and proposed environmental regulations as they relate to remediation, developing environmental management plans for international projects and providing technical support for the implementation and management of programs.
Stephanie Everett-Johnson is an environmental specialist at Peco
At Peco Energy (Philadelphia, PA), an electric and natural gas utility that’s a subsidiary of Chicago-based Exelon, senior environmental specialist Stephanie Everett-Johnson helps with the company’s environmental stewardship. She’s involved in Peco’s recycling program, community right-to-know program and spill plans. She earned her 1999 BS in environmental management at Pennsylvania State University.
As a student Everett-Johnson was interested in water-related utility work. She had a passion for the environment and wanted to do something useful, she says. Her internship as assistant environmental coordinator at GPU Genco involved developing a book of guidelines for environmental tasks, and the work gave her a broad knowledge of regulations.
On graduation Everett-Johnson found a job as an environmental coordinator at Reliant Energy Mid-Atlantic Power Holdings, LLC (Portland, PA). She worked there for a year, doing the necessary environmental regulatory functions for an electric generating station with its own wastewater treatment and ash disposal.
The next year she moved to a job as environmental scientist with engineering/design firm URS Corp in Fort Washington, PA. She helped design an internal compliance program to track a client’s environmental tasks and deficiencies. She also did environmental, health and safety audits for various clients, as well as writing regulatory plans, conducting training and generally helping a client obtain ISO 40001 certification.
In 2007 Everett-Johnson joined Peco Energy as a senior environmental specialist. She works with a group of five others in the environmental services group. The group oversees initiatives like stewardship and spill prevention and response if needed, recycling, self-assessment programs, remediation activities and PCB cleanup.
The group supports environmental initiatives for about twenty cable line systems, 400 substations and twenty service buildings in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Everett-Johnson is especially proud of the group’s Earth Day community activities, and work on preserving natural grass habitat and stream bank areas. Peco, she points out, is one of the largest landowners in southeastern Pennsylvania and responsible for the protection of the environment on its land across the region.
She’s pleased with her work, which was inspired in part by her father, a retired safety professional for Reliant. “I go home most days feeling I’ve done something positive, whether it’s improving a whole habitat or just getting a containment system under a drum of oil,” she says. “Some days it’s small stuff, other days it can have a critical impact on the environment.”
Beyond her environmental skills, “I didn’t anticipate how much of a role communication would play in my career,” she reflects. She predicts that environmental professionals will continue in demand in nearly every realm of energy production and delivery. “Energy and the environment are closely connected,” she says. “In utilities and power companies there will always be legislation and regulations that will require the expertise of environmental professionals.”
Barbara Hughes: solar energy research at NREL
Barbara Hughes is a research scientist I at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Golden, CO). Her work focuses on improving the efficiency of solar technology.
Hughes finished her BS in chemistry at Colorado State University in 2005, leaning toward a career in pharmaceutical sciences. But as she moved into the masters program in chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley she shifted her ideas. She discovered a deep interest in bioinorganic technology, and when she completed her MS in chemistry in 2007, she started at NREL.
She worked in the synthesis lab, part of NREL’s basic energy sciences group that works with nano-materials. She began by studying nano-crystals to see how they can improve the efficiency of solar cells.
This year Hughes was promoted to research scientist I. She’s still doing synthetic research but now she’s working on her own projects, and building devices based on her research that could improve the future functionality of solar cells.
This, she says, is work she feels passionate about. “I’m so delighted to be doing what I’m doing now!”
This fall she begins work on her PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She plans to stay at NREL for her thesis work, and wants to continue in the solar field.
Hung Phu Chau manages chemical services at Philadelphia Gas Works
At the Philadelphia Gas Works, chemical services department manager Hung Phu Chau oversees the company’s safety and emergency response functions.
When he entered Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) for his BSChE, he thought he’d like to work in a chemical processing plant. His ideas changed with a co-op position at a Philadelphia water treatment plant. As an engineer trainee he analyzed river water as it was processed to become drinkable. After learning everything he could in the company’s lab, he decided this was the career he wanted.
So when he got his degree in 1980 Chau joined Philadelphia Gas Works as an entry level engineer working on operations within the plant. A few months later, when volunteers were needed to work in the laboratory testing gas quality, “I said, ‘Okay,’” he recalls.
It was a great choice. Chau gained knowledge in gas, environmental engineering and even the medical industries, and challenged himself to an ever-deeper involvement with ChE. “You have to read a lot of technical magazines and keep up with technology out there,” he says. “Everything is new almost every day, so I read on a daily basis and expand my knowledge.”
Today Chau is chemical services department manager at the same lab he joined in 1982. He oversees techies who test natural gas and liquefied natural gas. “We are also involved in emergency response to chemical spills and gas incidents,” he notes. The group also trains company workers on health and safety practices when handling hazardous chemicals.
Chau says his college education provided the technical knowledge he’s used throughout his career, but “Communicating with and understanding the skill level of my staff helps me maximize the productivity and professional expertise of our department.”
His advice to others? “Expand your horizons, but first be profound in your existing field.”
Tammy Little manages technology and engineering at Norco Chemical
Tammy Little is technology and engineering manager at Norco Chemical (Norco, LA), a division of Shell Oil Company. She works at a facility that produces basic chemical building blocks: ethylene, propylene, butadiene and other chemical feedstocks and gasoline blending components. These chemicals go into products like polymers used for packaging, detergents for cleaning, polyesters for the building and automotive markets and of course gasoline for transportation.
When Little’s high school counselor recommended that she check out the engineering disciplines, Little looked through an old encyclopedia. She saw only one picture of a woman engineer, a ChE, and decided that was the engineering specialty she’d try. She went on to a 1992 BSChE at Christian Brothers University (Memphis, TN) and a 1999 MBA at Tulane University (New Orleans, LA).
While working for her BS she did an internship at Procter & Gamble, but after graduation she joined Shell Oil as a control systems engineer (CSE) at the Norco plant. She started in logistics operations, overseeing instrumentation and control equipment functions.
In 1993 she was given a CSE assignment at the large olefins plant at Norco. In 1994 she added process-engineering responsibilities: now she was in charge of day-to-day ops as well as controls. In 1997 she was promoted to production engineer in charge of multiple disciplines in a larger production area of the plant. “This was my first job as a senior engineer working with junior engineers,” she remembers.
In 1999 a mentor nominated her for Shell’s Leadership and Performance Group, where future Shell business leaders are trained. “That was an unbelievable opportunity,” Little says. When she completed the program in 2000 she was appointed business development manager in the aromatics sector, which made benzene, toluene and gasoline blending components. In 2002 she became asset development manager, providing overall leadership for a multi-million dollar Gulf Coast capital project.
The next year she became aromatics product manager for the Gulf Coast. “I was responsible for sales and marketing of benzene, toluene and xylenes in the U.S. Gulf Coast area,” she explains.
In 2004 Little moved into a new position as technology manager overseeing engineering disciplines like process, control systems, pressure equipment, project development and process chemistry. These groups are collectively responsible for 24/7 technical support to the facility: delivering business results, executing improvements and looking at the operation’s efficiency and safety.
Last year she added leadership of the engineering department as well, and the title of technology and engineering manager. Seventy-five people report to her, including department heads, engineers and technicians.
“It’s interesting to be in this industry as a woman,” Little reflects. “It has its challenges but it’s also very rewarding. At the end of the day you have to be able to produce results, whether you’re a man or a woman.
“You have to think and plan long-term,” she says: develop a broad network, be bold, take chances, be visible and, very important, “deliver results in a way that enables those around you to shine!
“I’ve worked for some really good leaders at Shell,” Little concludes, “and I’ve picked up nuggets of great skills from all of them.”
Diversity is a priority for the entire energy industry and especially for Shell Oil, says company spokesperson Robin Lebovitz. Shell offers networking options through its Generation X group, Shell Asian Pacific employee network, Shell black network and Shell Hispanic employee network.
“At Shell, promoting diversity and inclusiveness is at the very core of how we do business. From hiring to supplying, we aim to make the most of the skills and experience that people of different cultures, genders and ages can bring to the workplace,” Lebovitz notes. “That helps us better serve our customers’ needs around the world.”
Rhonda Y. Hurd: agricultural logistics at Monsanto
While Rhonda Y. Hurd was working on her 1998 BSChE at the University of Iowa, she did summer internships in several different units of Monsanto’s Muscatine, IA manufacturing facility. “I really liked Monsanto,” she says. When she graduated she already had a history with the company; she’d even gone to college with a Monsanto scholarship.
So she went right to Monsanto, and was put to work as a process engineer in the glyphosate technical unit, where ingredients for the herbicide Roundup were made.
She managed daily ops including production planning, sample plan development, writing operating procedures, developing and implementing QC and process control procedures, and process optimization to improve capabilities. She also did weekly and monthly production and raw material reports to help identify cost and yield improvements.
A lot to handle, but in a couple of years she had increased Roundup production capacity by 15 percent and made a major raw materials savings.
Next she moved to Monsanto’s Fayetteville, AR location and was put in charge of all the ingredients used to create Roundup, as well as packaging for the product.
In late 2001 Monsanto closed the Fayetteville site. “I had a choice then, to stay in plant work or go into corporate and learn the business side of the company,” she says. She opted for business, taking a job in St. Louis, MO as distribution requirements planner for packaged chemicals. It was up to her to make sure the products were moving smoothly from Monsanto sites to third-party warehouses and eventually to customers.
In 2005 Hurd completed an MBA with an operations and supply chain management emphasis at St. Louis University and moved into her current work: managing a seven-person team responsible for export shipments to Monsanto customer countries. Now she was deep into areas like customs, and international trade laws regulating herbicides and seeds.
She’s no longer using her ChE background directly, but it continues to be a great help to her. “Engineering teaches you how to think,” she says. “I think my ChE experience will be helpful throughout my career.”
Manufacturing recruiter Monique Matthews notes that Monsanto employs engineers from many disciplines, but seeks out ChEs, MEs and CEs, as well as chemical and environmental engineers.
ChE Cynthia Murphy: PAC manager at Chevron Energy
Cynthia Murphy oversees the functions of a team of 600 employees at Chevron Energy Technology Co (Richmond, CA). She is process, analytical and catalysis (PAC) organizational capability manager, and also global downstream/Oronite recruiting coordinator at the company.
Murphy earned her 1991 BSChE at the University of California-Davis. She knew she wanted to work in a manufacturing plant, and selected Chevron because the company had plants in the Bay Area, where she lived. “There are multiple petrochemical plants here so it was natural to focus on the petrochemical industry.”
She spent two years interning with Chevron while she was in college, learning about environmental engineering and marketing as well. “I worked in the refinery and that was a great opportunity,” she says. She liked the environmental and petrochemical fields, and her internships were leading her that way.
When she got her degree she went right to Chevron. She was a design engineer at the Richmond refinery (Richmond, CA), providing day-to-day plant support and project engineering for distillation and reforming and hydroprocessing business units.
She stepped directly into a largely male environment, but “That’s never been an issue I worry about,” she says. “You just have to come in with the attitude that ‘I’m here to do a job.’
“The fascinating thing about working at Chevron is the diversity of the people here,” Murphy says. “I love the opportunity of working with many different types of people every day.”
The work itself was an engineer’s dream: wearing a hard hat and going through the plant. But, “I knew there was more to this refinery than engineering,” she says.
In 1994 an opportunity came along. She became business coordinator, process safety management coordinator and lead project engineer at the Richmond refinery.
Now she developed and monitored budgets and business plans for the refinery’s business unit and services groups. She scheduled hazard operability studies, implemented safety and improvement recommendations and supported engineering projects for the business units: blending and shipping, distillation and reforming, utilities and environmental; even the wax business.
In 1996 Murphy was promoted to lead project engineer, supporting business-unit and refinery-wide projects from original scope and design to field construction and file closure. A year later she became maintenance supervisor, overseeing Chevron mechanics, contract laborers, painters and others at eleven operating units.
In 1998 she moved to something entirely new. She helped start up the Chevron Technology University (CTU), a program designed to train new engineers. She managed the overall operation of CTU, including design, development, implementation and evaluation of courses.
In 2000 she drew on her CTU experience as project manager for the Horizons program for new petroleum engineers, drilling engineers, earth scientists, ChEs, MEs and CEs involved in locating and producing petroleum. She traveled around Chevron locations, setting up programs where the work was being done.
Things were moving fast in this ChE’s busy career. In 2005 Murphy became Chevron’s process, analytical and catalyst (PAC) strategic integration manager and global downstream recruiting collaboration coordinator. She developed and implemented the strategic vision of the PAC department, provided business planning and strategic support and developed plans for two large departments, making sure their functions worked well together. “I looked at what we need today, five years from now and ten years down the road,” she explains. She also oversaw the capability functions of the 600-member group.
In 2007 she added the role of recruiting for global downstream and Oronite, the divisions of Chevron that make finished products like gasoline, jet and diesel fuel additives. Today she serves as organization capability manager, with oversight of some 150 contractors.
As one of Chevron’s 200 technical recruiters, Murphy looks for well-rounded people. They need technical expertise, of course, but also communication, leadership and organizational skills. They should be people who understand and share Chevron’s values.
“It’s the work and the people you’re going to work with that will sustain you,” Murphy concludes.
DIVERSITY-MINDED COMPANIES & ORGANIZATIONS EMPLOYING ChEs & EnvEs
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|American Water Co (Sacramento, CA) www.amwater.com
||Water and wastewater service
|Bechtel (San Francisco, CA)
||Engineering, construction, management and development services
|Chevron (San Ramon, CA) www.chevron.com
||Refined oil products
|Environmental Protection Agency (Washington, DC) www.epa.gov
||National environmental science research, education and assessment
|Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
(Kansas City, KS) www.bpu.com
|Water and electricity services to residences and businesses
|KBR (Houston, TX)
|Engineering, construction and services
|Monsanto Co (St. Louis, MO)
|Biotechnology for agriculture
|National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, CO) www.nrel.gov
||Renewable energy and energy efficiency
research, development and deployment
|Peco Energy Co (Philadelphia, PA)
|Electricity and natural gas for the
|Philadelphia Gas Works (Philadelphia, PA) www.pgworks.com
||Natural gas for the city of Philadelphia
|Shell Oil Co (Houston, TX)
|Energy and petrochemicals
|Shire (Wayne, PA)
|United Water (Harrington Park, NJ)
|U.S. Coast Guard (Washington, DC)
|Military maritime service
|Westinghouse Electric Co
(Cranberry Township, PA)
|Nuclear fuel, services and plant design for
international utility and industrial customers
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