Program Director, National Science Foundation
My First Job
My first job was with Scientific Design Co. (SD) in New York City. I was a process design engineer and my first project was to be a member of a six-person team to design a maleic anhydride plant in Spain. Each of us got to design a section and we had to work together and "fit" our section with the others. The camaraderie was great among the six of us. It was an excellent learning experience. Other projects followed, some interesting, some not so much. I left the company after a year because the economy was bad, SD was laying people off, and I decided it was an opportune time to get a PhD.
Her Career Since Then
Maria K. Burka is the program director of the Process and Reaction Engineering (PRE) program in the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) Division of the National Science Foundation. Her responsibilities include evaluation and management of research and educational grants to academic institutions in the areas of chemical and biochemical reaction engineering, process control and process design as well as reactive polymer processing.
Past employment positions have included Senior Scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a member of the faculty of the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Maryland/College Park, and process design engineer with Scientific Design Company in New York City.
She received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University, all in chemical engineering. Her research interests are in chemical process design and control. She has been active in a number of professional organizations, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She currently serves as the 2011 President of AIChE .
Advice to Young Chemical Engineers
Try to take something positive from every job and always be flexible and keep your skills current. Be prepared to deal with changes in the economy, and the profession.