CE Team Stories: Meet Teresa, Advanced Development Engineer and Ph.D.
Learning to love nature and science
I had to think a lot to answer the question of how I came to work at Carbon Engineering. I realized it has to do a lot with my mother, for teaching me to love nature and science in a way only she could: leading by example. And for supporting me along the way.
As a child, I lived in a city in beautiful Venezuela, and my mom decided to buy a piece of land so we could leave the city and spend the weekends in nature. Her wish for us was that we could walk barefoot on the ground, play in the mud and rain, bike, grow crops, climb trees, and have pets: dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, a horse, a donkey, and a few very lovely cows that loved to be ridden. She wanted us to learn to take care of them. Then when I was twelve, we finally moved there. I learned to love nature, in the pure way it is.
Part of our weekend activities was cleaning up trash that people from bigger towns threw nearby our property, ignoring environmental regulations and taking advantage of the lack of law enforcement. I did not like cleaning up after someone else. I would tell my mother it was not fair, and she would say,“We do not do it for them, we do it for us.” I only understood what she meant many years later.
My mother is a medical doctor, and would always keep statistics of whatever cases they had, anything new, keeping track of medical histories and data, which at the time I thought was a pointless effort. She always kept reading and learning with passion, regardless of her 25+ years of experience. That also taught me a lot.
Building a career, with positions in three countries
I considered studying environmental engineering, at a local university. The program was mostly about law and regulatory matters, and not too much about science, so I went for chemical engineering instead. It would allow me to do more for environmental protection and remediation, which I was interested in, in a wider number of ways. On a good day during my first year at university, I discovered the activity I love the most about science was called research and development. I remember exactly the moment of that realization while listening to a conference on catalysis.
I did a co-op at a research institution in Venezuela, on reinforcing mechanical properties of recycled plastic blends, and I discovered that my love for science was endless. I did my special work to become a chemical engineer on aluminum recycling, to convert cans into a more valuable product like high purity alumina.
“The different jobs, people, workplaces, countries, and cultures I have been exposed to each gave me the skills and learnings I use today. Even the parts of those experiences that at the time were not my favourite. Curiosity and passion have always been good allies on this path, and it is a passion for what one does that helps you persevere with your goals.”
My second co-op was at a research center for the oil industry. The beauty of that job was that the technology was completely developed in house, from the lab to the field, and that there is an infinitude of sciences combined across the oil industry. I was offered a job there, and I worked on a very interesting enhanced oil recovery project, making oil recovery as efficient as possible while reducing the amount of water used. My area of concentration was interfacial phenomena. I was part of the strategic reserve of human resources at that company and they gave me a scholarship to ‘convert’ me from a chemical engineer to a reservoir engineer through a specialization program. My thesis was on characterizing complex hydrocarbons as input for a software that was being developed at the time.
I had to leave Venezuela due to political persecution and fortunately, I was offered a sponsorship from the Brazilian National Council for Research (CNPQq) to study emulsion generation in porous media, for a national oil company, at a university in Brazil. That was my Ph.D. thesis, and I spent four great years among excellent, passionate, and qualified professors.
Before finishing my Ph.D., I received a job offer in Alberta to join the research team for heavy oil recovery, moving from Brazil to wonderful Canada. I am still amazed by this country that became my home. I spent four excellent years in Edmonton, working on a wide variety of very enjoyable projects.
Then I was part of a manufacturing company, as Application Development Specialist, for specialty materials and separation technologies for eight years. It was a great experience learning so many different technologies, and how to create connections among applications from the same material or technology.Joining the team at Carbon Engineering
One very good day in August 2019, I got the opportunity to start working at Carbon Engineering, joining the Advanced Development team. I was astonished at the project, the goal, the purpose, and the people I was headed to work with. I still am. Direct Air Capture at CE is a great project at an inspiring workplace. I am thankful to have the opportunity to contribute to leaving our descendants the planet we enjoyed, in the best possible condition. At CE, we are getting closer every day to the main goal, step by step. I appreciate that CE allows me to give back to this wonderful planet I enjoy every day. Not to mention that it is located in beautiful Squamish, with its breathtaking views and special community.
Like Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” The different jobs, people, workplaces, countries, and cultures I have been exposed to each gave me the skills and learnings I use today. Even the parts of those experiences that at the time were not my favourite. Curiosity and passion have always been good allies on this path, and it is a passion for what one does that helps you persevere with your goals.
Sometimes it is hard for people to discover the career path to follow. My best advice when the path is not too obvious would be to explore different alternatives, environments, and mostly, embark on a self-discovery journey. In any case, using time wisely always helps. And at some point, it would be great to consider joining initiatives for protecting our environment, or for remediating what the human race’s lifestyle has done and continues to do to our precious planet.