International Day of Women in STEM – Katerina Newman, Chemical Engineer, Americas

Feb 10, 2024

What degree / certifications do you hold?

My expertise is based on Master’s level degree in Chemical/Process Engineering and continuous career-long education. The Engineering is the profession that requires non-stop practice and learning because engineers are in the business of always solving new scientific, engineering problems, creating new ideas, processes, devices, substances.

What is your job title and what is involved in your role?

During my career I worked as Engineering Researcher for a research institute, Shift Supervisor in the industrial plant, Development Engineer, then Technology Advisor for leading oilfield service companies. Now, for several years, my home is SciDev located in Houston, Texas. In SciDev I am part of the Technology team. I am dedicated to the projects for one of the Major Operators developing technologies for the energy sector.

⁠How do you believe your role contributes to a more sustainable future?

Engineering, by definition, is the area of expertise that contributes to more sustainable future. Many historical examples are astounding. For instance, early last century, the use of kerosine likely saved whales from the extinction. Furthermore, continuous development of oilfield technologies historically led to increasingly efficient energy extraction. Next, the energy industry started to evolve into development of technologies for renewable energy. This is engineering evolution that takes place thought human history. The modern oilfield inevitably contributes to the more sustainable future, creating energy evolution for the good of our planet and all leaving here.  If we believe that humanity is working on creating sustainable future, engineers are certainly pioneering in this field. SciDev in North America is currently involved in Carbone Capture project. In my role, I am currently committed to this project.

What made you want to pursue STEM/ engineering/science? What experiences did you have when you were younger that inspired you?

I was growing up in the environment where science and engineering were normal, natural, things to grow into doing “when I grow up”. My school specialised in math, physics, and chemistry. Also, any teenager, who could pass knowledge tests, was welcome to attend specialized extracurricular “Young Physicist” and “Young Chemist” classes that were carried out by a scientific research facility, or a university. Maybe because my family valued science and technology, I was always interested in joining in and learn more about chemistry and physics that soon led me to choose the future occupation.

How do you believe innovation and research and development play a role in your field, and how have they influenced your work?

Innovation may be defined as a process of creation of new things using existing materials. Innovation is the tool we use developing new and better products for the industry. Innovation is the cornerstone of success in the always evolving oilfield business environment. Research and development are my everyday work experience that make it exciting and result in winning technology for field applications.

Can you tell us about a project/experience you’re particularly proud of?

I am proud of any project that resulted in a product working in the field. Development of specialty drilling fluid that had 5 ppg mud weight that significantly lighter than water or any oil; helping to solve one of the most challenging drilling fluid solids control issues; assisting in developing surfactants capable of substantially increasing production compared to currently used chemistries are some of memorable project done in SciDev. Now, I am proud to be part of the team that solving challenges of carbon capture and storage. I am looking forward to further challenges, discoveries, and successes.

In your perspective, how do we at SciDev successfully integrate the domains of policy, science, and sustainability in our work, and why do you believe this integration is significant?

SciDev is company that integrates the domains of policy, science, and sustainability as a recipe for success.  From my experience here, safety, people, sustainable innovative technology go hand in hand and getting imbedded in company culture. Every day I see continuous efforts by everyone in the company, from management to support personnel.

Do you have any advice for younger females wanting to pursue a degree in science? The simplest and, at the same time, most complex advise is just go ahead and do it. The most difficult thing for many teenagers is to decide what to do, what direction to go. From yearly school years it is good to look around, to be curious, learn what science and technology is all about, get a feeling of direction that maybe worth to persuade. For teenagers, additional education is needed. So, searching for learning opportunities that exist for age groups and actively participating in such opportunities, may be very useful tool for future achievements. Plus, one must get involved in sports and pursue self-development learning of arts and history outside of regular school activities.

Why do you think women are historically underrepresented in STEM?

Historically is the key word to answer this question. Respectfully, it is how society historically developed. Thus, it was how society formed roles of people in it. However, in modern days, number of young women interested pursuing STEM professions is growing.

How do you think we could reach more girls and young women to go into STEM? What projects or experiences do you think would get more young females inspired? 

Maybe the answer is more TV commercials promoting STEM and inviting young generation to become scient or engineer? Maybe engineering profession value for businesses and governments should be matter of national security? Maybe social engineering is an answer? So many questions and different ways to answer it…

Social environment and family are most important factors. For young people, it should be prestigious to be interested in STEM and this opinion of prestige comes from all people surrounding a child, a teenager. For instance, positive peer pressure is highly important factor in teens’ life to move them into desired areas. Child’s interest in STEM should be also respected in own family to ensure parental support for an aspiring scientist or an engineer. We, as a society, need to create environment where great education is a normal and necessary condition of childhood development. Families need to see that STEM professions are great opportunity for the future of a young girl.  From the experience I gained volunteering for Girl Scouts’ science events in Rice university, I learned that both groups, parents and girls, were surprized to see how interesting and rewarding engineering profession may be. For 10-12 y.o. girls it was interesting to learn how things work, and then make it work hands-on. For parents, it was exiting to realize that STEM professions can provide bright and prosperous future for their daughters. When, as a society, we stop treating women in STEM as something unusual, but see it as a casual occurrence, then the environment will evolve to have girls choosing STEM just as well as any other profession.

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