STEMinist Profile: Katie Mehnert, CEO and Founder, Pink Petro


Katie Mehnert

CEO and Founder

Pink Petro

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
The energy business is a fascinating and rewarding place to make a difference. We create and make things that power our world and underpin our economy and livelihoods. After years in energy technology and business transformation in Upstream and Downstream, I found my passion in health, safety, and operational risk management. Today I enjoy continuing that path as a consultant to industry while developing a diverse pipeline of female talent to drive closure of the gender gap in our sector.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The best project I tackled was road safety while at Shell. My team launched an intervention program in 16 countries across the globe and we drove down road fatalities. What made it cool? Country leadership teams, suppliers, and employees all worked together to make a difference in our pursuit to Goal Zero – an initiative that touched every part of our business, with over 100k people impacted. Ultimately Shell went on to become a leader in road safety, carving out a centre of expertise and becoming the role model in industry.

Role models and heroes:
There are plenty to count. First and foremost, my parents are my heroes. My dad and mom both always taught me three important things: owning my path, confidence, and integrity. I had many great teachers who gave me the space to learn and fail. Peggy, an engineer who has recently hit the pinnacle of her career as a CEO in a large IOC, took a risk on me as a non-engineer and changed my mindset and my career trajectory.

We all need role models and heroes and I seek to become one for other women so they know they don’t have to go at it alone.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
STEM fuels our world. It underpins our lives. It’s the engine that solves our biggest problems. It’s bigger than all of us and needs women.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Own it and make it happen. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way.

Favorite website or app:
I’m going to have to say, Pink Petro. In 5 weeks, we are in 11 countries with members from various technical and non technical disciplines. I’m honored my industry supported and encouraged me to pursue developing Pink Petro, a community for women in energy and their advocates. It uses JIVE social business technology to power professional development communities, Q/A forums, blogs, discussions, mentor and coach matching, ideation, and other neat features. It’s spam and ad free and supported through annual membership dues. The site includes students, educators, professionals, executives, retirees and service providers in the energy sector.

Twitter: @katiemehnert


STEMinist Profile: Garima Gupta, Graduate Student / Regional Executive Officer, Robogals North America


Garima Gupta

Graduate Student / Regional Executive Officer, Robogals North America


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always enjoyed math and science and it has been my dream since I was nine to become an astronaut and the first person on Mars. So my interests and dreams naturally led to engineering. My parents are both engineers and fantastic role models, so their excitement for the field and their support of my goals has helped a lot as well.

After being immersed in STEM for so long, I can’t really imagine doing anything else!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I’ve ever worked on was during my undergrad. As part of the Kirschvink Lab at Caltech, I helped design, construct, and test a stage that would simulate the systematic movement of a magnetometer placed on a Martian rover’s instrument arm. The stage helped us find evidence of lightning strikes in rocks on Earth and a similar technology could help us do the same thing on Mars. This data could help us confirm the past existence of water on the planet and help us determine which rocks to avoid for sample return.

It was amazing to get to work on a project that combined mechanical, electrical, computer, and systems engineering as well as the geological and planetary sciences. I loved it!

I’m excited for some upcoming projects too though. I’ll be a propulsion intern at SpaceX this summer; can’t wait to see what I get to work on!

Role models and heroes:
My Parents: patient, supportive, and persevering.
Eileen Collins: incredible woman/pilot/astronaut and very humble too!
Amelia Earhart & Dara Torres: perfect examples of letting nothing stop you from achieving your goals.
Peter Diamandis: has an infectious sense of motivation and passion for his work; I hope I can communicate my excitement that well!

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I really enjoy making things with my own hands (whether it be a program on a computer or a part on the lathe) and seeing those become components in larger projects. I love that these projects always have some connection to a “bigger picture.” Working in STEM allows me to solve real-world problems and at the same time, further my dream of becoming an astronaut.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Find other people that are passionate about the same things that you are and surround yourself with them. They will not only inspire you on a daily basis and but you will also help each other accomplish exactly what you set out to accomplish (or maybe even more)!

Favorite website or app:
I really like this app “Bonza” – it’s a game that combines crossword and jigsaw puzzles. So fun! :)

Twitter: @AstroGarima

STEMinist Profile: Kirsi Kuutti, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Undergraduate


Kirsi Kuutti

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Undergraduate

University of Minnesota Duluth



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Building robots on my high school’s FIRST Robotics team, the Daredevils, got me hooked on STEM careers! We created robots to compete in various games like soccer, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee. The Daredevils showed me that engineering is not just a profession, it is a lifestyle. Since teams only have six weeks to fabricate a competitive machine we learned to work hard and smart. We used engineering principles coined by the team like “Beautility”− a reliable machine must have both “Beauty” and “Utility”. My favorite task on the team was creating circuits from sensors to motors and performing general robot wiring.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Soldering a circuit board for NASA’s deep space habitat was the coolest project I have worked on. I interned for NASA’s Glenn Reserach Center one summer and assisted in the fabrication of a solar array regulator which takes energy from the sun and batteries to power a habitat for astronauts. The circuit I made ensures the solar regulator receives power even during emergencies. It’s exciting to think that one day something I made may be sent to space.

Role models and heroes:
My robotics coach Mr. Velner and astronaut Karen Nyberg are my top role models. My robotics coach demonstrated the importance of helping others throughout my whole robotics experience. He illustrated through his work, teaching biology and mentoring, that helping those beyond my generation is most important for humanity. Karen Nyberg is an amazing leader in STEM — being a part of missions on the International Space Station, a scientist, and a mother.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
STEM careers combine creativity and problem solving which I find exciting! Additionally, careers in STEM often lead to working in teams and collaborating with a whole lot of different people and different professions. You never fall short of challenges!

Advice for future STEMinists?
My first year of college I failed Calculus II, one of the first engineering major requirements, and withdrew from my university’s engineering program. The following semester I gave it another shot. After getting a study buddy, practicing hundreds of problems, and asking the professor questions during office hours I passed with a B+! My advice for future STEMinists is to not give up and keep pursuing your passion despite doubts. Even if you have to retake a class many times, try a new strategy and find those who can help you.

Favorite website or app:
Favorite app: French Girls, draw other people from the selfies they take and take your own selfies so other people can draw you.

Favorite website:, resources and community for women in computer science.

Twitter: @KirsiCootie


STEMinist Profile: Taryn Musgrave, Chief Operations Officer for Robogals Global


Taryn Musgrave

Chief Operations Office & Full Time Student

Robogals Global

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I just LOVE technology and maths! I always wanted to do something a little bit different and I love being able to solve problems. When I was younger I didn’t really know what I wanted to do… I wanted to work with computers but I didn’t have much thought beyond that. I ended up in an Engineering role and have since then come full circle back to Computer Science. I have always been an advocate of women in STEM roles and I am involved in promoting women in STEM roles as part of my role. I think when a maths problem, an engineering marvel, a physics discovery or a particularly tricky code solution gets you excited you have no choice! I have found my passion.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There have been plenty of cool projects along the way. Each project is different: different challenges and different people. One of the coolest projects was when I was living in Northern Australia. A train had derailed and destroyed a section of track and a point machine. I was on a team of two and we spent the next 12 hours rebuilding this machine from scratch. It involved physical labour, resourceful thinking, problem solving and teamwork to be able to get this machine up and running again. This project gave me a sense of achievement when the machine first operated.

Generally speaking my favourite projects are the ones that have an unexpected outcome and help people. I am a big advocate for volunteering and helping people as much as possible. Sharing knowledge and skills with others develops not only them but myself as well.

Role models and heroes:

  • Amy Poehler – just plain inspirational
  • Helen Pederson – for helping me find the confidence to pursue my dreams. Her Open the Door project provides education and aims to address the issues women face in the engineering industry when returning to the workforce after having children.
  • Karen San Miguel – a fantastic woman who promotes tech to young people through CoderDojo in WA. Also an all-round awesome person.
  • Marita Cheng – founder of Robogals. I would not have the wonderful opportunity I have now if Marita didn’t get the ball rolling.
  • My Husband – he is so patient, kind and supportive. He is such a positive male role model. I am so lucky to have him in my life.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Every day is different! I love to help people and solve problems. In my current role I get to visit schools and encourage girls to think about STEM as a potential career path. There is nothing more exciting than a group of young girls who never knew that their love of maths and science could be part of their future career. The girls that I meet surprise me every time. Their ingenuity and ‘out of the box’ thinking just blows me away. I meet so many older women who have lost that along the way and I want to encourage everyone to become themselves again. Through my different jobs in STEM I have been knee deep in snow fixing track circuits on the railway in England, responding to faults in Northern Australia in temperatures that melted my work boots, and currently sharing the awesome places STEM careers can take you with girls around the world.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Jump! If you find something you love doing, then do it! Happy people are successful people. Work takes up a substantial part of your life so it is important to love what you are doing. If you make a mistake, you learn. If you chose the wrong path, you can change it. Nothing is set in stone.

Favorite website or app:

  • Twitter – I love to tweet! Twitter connects me with the world and lets me discover so many new people :)
  • Slack – Newly discovered. It allows me to keep up with my team on a regular informal basis.

Twitter: @tarynmusgrave

An Interview with Computer Science Professor Dr. Rebecca Wright

This summer, while at the NJ Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology, I was able to meet one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Rebecca Wright. After the program ended, I was also able to interview Dr. Wright about her experiences and insight into engineering. Dr. Wright is both a professor and researcher at Rutgers University for computer science, cyber security, and communications security. She attended Columbia University for her Bachelor’s degree and Yale University for her Ph.D.

As a little girl, both of her parents went to MIT and she was surrounded by female engineers. She was raised thinking that this was the norm, and that there were a decent number of women working in STEM fields. In fact, those women that she was surrounded by were a vast majority of female engineers and scientists in the world. Nevertheless, they collectively influenced Dr. Wright’s early decision to work in the computer science field. In high school, she chose computer science over playing the piano, deeming musical skills something that she needed more inherent talent for and engineering skills something more practical that she could work hard towards.

And indeed, a computer science degree was a hard major to work towards. I, based on my dramatically mind-exploding experiences in calculus, felt obliged to ask if the majority of the math classes she took in college were inapplicable to her current research and career. Dr. Wright admitted that the certain theoretical math classes were not useful, but the math learned from computer science classes was very important. In her first year of college, the discrete math requisite is what thoroughly fascinated and solidified her passion for computer science.

One of Dr. Wright’s most recent research projects focuses on human mobility modeling. Cellular networks provide the necessary data. She inferred home and work locations from each caller ID to create a model of users and their call behavior. Then, she created synthetic users with their calls based on the model. It effectively reproduced the real life population density distributions. The second project examined privacy on social media. Dr. Wright introduced a concept called side channels— information channels that are secondary to the intended communication channel but convey additional relevant information.

To examine side channels, Dr. Wright created an experimental Facebook account and discovered many “loopholes” or side channels that revealed information intended to be blocked (ie. friends’ restrictions). She conducted a survey to determine user awareness and concern about these side channels. One survey question asked if the user was aware that edit history was visible to anyone who can see the post. This type of research enables Dr. Wright to find and solve cyber security problems.

Outside of research, Dr. Wright has been to several leadership summits in Europe, China, Malaysia, Israel, etc. Communication, above all, is key. Thus, in response to my mentioning of the stereotype that engineers are bad writers, Dr. Wright laughed and stated that whether it was true or not, writing is crucial to engineering; after all, the discovery or invention is worthless
without effective communication.

As for personal advice, she underscored the work required to pursue such a career. Speaking from the experience of rushing to finish a research paper, completing arduous and sometimes arcane math classes, and many sleepless nights, Dr. Wright was sure to remind me that the path to becoming an engineer was not nearly as easy as she made it out to be. Laughing, I stated that I had and would never underestimate the effort.

Sir James Dyson: ‘It’s sexist to say that women and girls don’t ‘do’ engineering’

“To encourage girls to get inventing, we need to do more reveal a true picture of engineering at a young age. Between the ages of seven and nine, children develop the key critical reasoning skills essential to engineering. It is during this time that they should be inspired and exposed to hands on making and doing, at school and home.”

[ via The Telegraph ]

Nearly 40 percent of women leave engineering

“Over the course of 3 years, psychologists Nadya Fouad and Romila Singh of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, surveyed more than 5000 women with engineering degrees. About 11% of those women never took on an engineering job. Another 27% left the field after taking a job.”

[ via The Guardian ]

STEMinist Profile: Barbara A. Res, Professsional Engineer


Barbara A. Res

Professsional Engineer

Res Construction Services LLC

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My guidance counselors told me to be a Math teacher because I had the highest math grades in my high school. I did not hear the word engineer once. I entered school as a poli sci major but fortunately my school had an engineering program and I was challenged to study it by some of the male students. Since I liked electricity in physics, I decided to pursue Electrical Engineering and I ended up working in construction.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My coolest assignment was being in charge of construction of the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. By the time I went to work for Trump, I had been an assistant project manager, draftsperson, Mechanical Superintendent and Superintendent on various construction projects. I had a complete knowledge of all trades and was adept at management.

On Trump Tower, I got to build a complicated building and work with the celebrities who bought apartments. We put a swimming pool in one apartment on the 65th floor. The design challenges were illuminating and the personalities intriguing.

Role models and heroes:
Gloria Steinem is a hero. Unfortunately, because of the occupation I chose, there were no female role models. I had some men who were mentors. Think what you will, Donald Trump and his wife Ivana were my biggest promoters and he gave me unbelievable opportunities.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Construction is the most exciting business because it provides instant gratification. You can point to a building and say, I played a part in creating that. People see your work. I am particularly honored to have my name inscribed on a building I supervised at 667 Madison Ave in NYC.

Construction is challenging and never boring. Every day is different with new problems to solve.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Believe in yourself and your choices. You define the work you do, not the other way around. Don’t let anyone challenge your reasons for becoming an engineer. Don’t stand for harassment and intimidation. You have to pick your spots, and be a bit thick skinned, but any serious action must be reported.

Work very hard. Probably you will work harder than the men. I did. But you don’t have to, just do your best.

Find other women to work with and befriend, even if they are competition. Find a mentor and look for younger women you can help.

Favorite website or app:

Twitter: @Barbararesesq

Female students start to show more interest in science and engineering

Figures for combined sciences show a 19% rise in the proportion of female students expressing enthusiasm for the subject, compared to an 11% rise for male sixth formers. Young women’s interest in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering rose by 18% and 27% respectively, compared to 10% and 13% for male students.

[ via The Guardian ]

Energy companies aim to recruit more women amid industry boom

Solid statistics on how many women work in energy are hard to find. An analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted by the oil and gas industry news service Rigzone found that 46 percent of all new jobs in the oil and gas industry went to women during the first quarter of 2013, the highest level in years.

[ via The Times-Picayune ]