Throughout history, women have made extensive contributions in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
At Battelle, women have been an integral part of furthering our mission of translating scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits for the past 90 years. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, here are highlights from a few successful Battelle women and their journeys in the STEM workforce.
Amy is the first Battelle Fellow and the first female Battelle Inventor of the Year. She specializes in advanced materials. Her primary responsibilities are to develop innovative new materials, solve challenging problems and provide technology assessments for clients. She has led a multi-year program to build a new business around carbon nanomaterials resulting in 15 patent applications.
As a child, Amy was interested in writing, law and business. Her interest in STEM began in a high school physics course that resulted in attendance at the University of Michigan, where she studied chemistry.
There have been times, she said, when she had to learn to overcome the insecurities that came with being the only woman scientist in the room. She believes we need to teach girls (and boys) to understand that life is a continuous learning process and that they must remain persistent in their education, a belief that resonates with Battelle’s mission of bringing STEM education to millions of kids across the country.
Today, she is busy building synthetic materials that can communicate and interact safely with biological materials and learning how to predict the aging of those interfaces over time. Her team is studying these materials for neuromuscular stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation.
“I chose a career in STEM because it allows a perfect expression of creativity, technique, and theory. I have stayed in this career because I like having a positive impact on society,” Amy said.
Jessica has 19 years of experience in conducting chemical defense research, development, test and evaluation at various levels, including line and project management. She is the manager of Battelle’s Hazardous Materials Research Center (HMRC), which is the largest and most comprehensive contractor-owned contractor-operated facility in the U.S. to work with chemical warfare agents.
Growing up, math and science were favorites, and in college, her interests ranged from physical sciences to medicine and political science. Her nexus was forensic chemistry, where she could apply science to law enforcement.
In her time at Battelle, she said she never has felt out of place as a woman. In national security, analytical chemistry and biomedical research, Jessica said she’s has been surrounded by highly talented women who have helped her feel comfortable. As a manager, she has learned to adapt her leadership style according to generational differences in the workplace. She strives to be a facilitator for the staff to help them succeed, navigate Battelle and help them to find answers when needed.
She considers being a mom her most rewarding role and makes sure to prioritize her children amidst her busy work life.
“Oftentimes women’s careers derail when children come into play, due to the expectations for long hours at work versus being there for the milestones in your children’s lives. While this is a challenge for men as well, I believe it is more so for women,” Jessica said.
Natasha is a social scientist and project manager with more than 10 years of experience conducting research related to environmental health and human-environment interactions. Her work focuses on the social and public health impacts of environmental change, development and urbanization or pollutants from a planetary/geohealth perspective.
Science doesn’t just occur in chemistry labs. She does not work in a lab or run numerical models but works to understand people’s roles in the socio-environmental systems. Curiosity surrounding the world around her, including how to make it a better place, drove her to a career in STEM.
Natasha believes more needs to be done to better integrate women in the STEM workforce. She hopes women can continue to challenge norms and broaden horizons, and wants women who are in nontraditional STEM roles, such as herself, to become a part of these conversations.
She works with partner organizations across the globe to improve air quality, resilience to climate change, and energy management. Her greatest challenges are often not STEM-related but more so of resources or political will. She tries to build the capacity for frameworks necessary to address those structural issues to make environmental and health solutions more attainable, far-reaching and sustainable.
“Women should be in leadership positions where they can drive the research questions and help set the agendas,” Natasha said.
Amy is a Research Scientist in Battelle’s CBRNE Defense (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) business. With more than 14 years of experience designing, constructing and operating aerosol and vapor delivery systems, she has consistently demonstrated passion for finding new ways to contribute technically to Battelle. She also is an excellent technical writer who takes on the role of editing and finalizing client deliverables.
As a young woman, she said she was ruled by logic and objectivity. She thought engineering was the perfect career solution as it blends a wide array of interests. She has noticed a positive shift in people’s reactions when learning she has a STEM career—what was once surprise or disbelief has given way to interest and conversation.
As an engineer, she tries to look at projects with a creative lens. She wants more engineers to understand that creativity isn’t reserved for art. She believes that effectively and thoughtfully articulating our thoughts is required beyond literature, and that improving the welfare of the community can happen in any situation.
“At its finest, excellence is an achievable manifestation of my most-desired objective: prudence – to think carefully before acting, to make wise choices and to do things well,” Amy said.