Women’s History Month: Trailblazing Women in Energy
March 18, 2022
Every year, the month of March marks Women’s History Month. At Energy Sciences, we strongly believe in the advancement of women, particularly in the energy field. In fact, our team is made up of 42% of staff who identify as women in addition to being a certified woman-owned business. As we progress and encourage further women-led development in the energy sector, we want to recognize three of the many trailblazing women who have paved the way for expansions in the energy and renewable energy fields.
1. Maria Telkes
Born on December 12, 1900, Maria Telkes was a highly respected innovator in the solar energy field. Telkes came to the United States in 1925 working as a biophysicist and eventually joined MIT to focus on the uses and applications of solar energy. Some of her most notable contributions were developing a solar distillation kit for World War II emergency medical kits that saved the lives of many downed airmen and sailors, research that resulted in an easy-to-use solar oven, and her contributions to Solar One, a solar-based home.
2. Olga González-Sanabria
Developing a fondness for math and science at a young age in Puerto Rico, Olga González-Sanabria is known for her groundbreaking research after being recruited by NASA a year after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in 1978. Her many accomplishments include her work on a team that discovered how to chemically alter nickel-hydrogen fuel cells to increase their battery life for International Space Station power systems, being a co-patentee on a separator technology for alkaline batteries and serving as the first Latina in an executive role at the NASA Glenn Research Center, where she worked for over 30 years until her retirement in 2011.
3. Frances Arnold
Frances Arnold had an unusual start to her career, having little interest in school during her youth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, despite excelling at it. After taking a year off college in Italy, she graduated from Princeton University with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 1979. The second major oil crisis of the 1970s inspired Arnold to work so the country would shift away from fossil fuels. In 1986, Arnold joined the chemical engineering faculty at the California Institute of Technology, and in 1993, conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that are the catalyst for chemical reactions. As a result of her discovery, the use of these enzymes provides more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals and the production of renewable fuels. In 2018, Arnold was awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry for her contributions.
There are many more notable women who are pushing the envelope in the energy and renewable energy fields, with plenty of room for more in the future. Energy Sciences’ President and Founder, Shelley Sullivan, recently shared on our social media the following quote:
“I am proud and passionate about this work because I deeply care about the planet and people. There is a tremendous amount of work to do and celebrating the achievements of women and girls in all fields of science is one of many ways to further progress.”
To the women who have come before us and to those who continue the work today – thank you!
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