STEMinist Profile: Anna Sutton Stinson, Project Geologist

Anna Sutton Stinson

Project Geologist


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always had fairly broad interests as a child. My mother is an artist and my father is an English professor, but both of them had broad interests as well, including farming and horses to chemistry, woodworking, and music. I loved science fiction and cosmology always fascinated me, and in high school I wanted to major in planetary science. I ended up majoring in astronomy and minoring in geology, but after I discovered geology included camping trips to beautiful places, I switched my major to geology and stuck with it. Developing the skills to observe the natural world and be able to put together a story about how it came to be that way is very satisfying to me.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I now work in environmental consulting, investigating and re-mediating petroleum and hazardous materials spills. My company says I assist our clients to comply with governmental regulations and best business practices. My drillers say I put dirt in jars. I also sometimes put groundwater and air in jars. The jars are then sent to laboratories for analysis, we interpret what contaminants are where and how they are moving and changing, and then we plan how to best limit risks to human health and the environment.

The coolest project I have worked on was doing environmental investigations at a large oil refinery. Ninety years of spills, leaks, and explosions made for lots of soil and groundwater contamination to hunt down and fix. Working at the refinery required very specific health and safety training, an FBI background check, and you had to wear fire resistant coveralls and a hydrogen sulfide gas meter.

Hydrogen sulfide gas can kill quickly, so we were trained to drop everything and run cross-wind and then up-wind if the alarm ever went off. Luckily, I never had to put that into practice. The refinery was a fascinating place to work, it was like its own small city, and there were always lots of big machinery and vehicles rumbling around through the tank farms and flare stacks.

Role models and heroes:
Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Florence Nightingale, Hildegard von Bingen, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it is an opportunity to seek out unfamiliar situations and really challenge myself or push my limits.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t be afraid to question and challenge gender stereotypes, even the tiniest ones. Often they are perpetuated simply because no one asks “why?” or “why not?”. Don’t let others define you, do what you enjoy and be yourself.

Favorite website or app: Check out some old maps!

Twitter: @annasutton

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