Katie Erikson

Associate Research and Development Director
Dow

How is your job related to climate and/or sustainability?

Research and Development tackles many different world challenges. The team that I lead today conducts research to invent the most effective process technology for the chemical industry. A key element of process development is understanding the sustainability of your new process. This includes understanding power requirements, emissions, water usage, and waste streams. Our goal is to design the most efficient process, which results in the high-quality product and limited amount of waste. Recently we have added Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) skills to our team. This skillset allows us to take a broader look at our products from raw materials to end-of-life. It provides important environmental insights to our raw material supplies, internal processes, and product benefits in use. These insights allow us to identify areas for improvement and articulate the environmental benefits of the products we produce.

What training was particularly important to enabling your work?

Engineering skills are critical for the role my team does for the company. Formal degrees in Engineering and Chemistry are needed to do the calculations to quantify the environmental impact (both positive and negative) of our processes and products. It also takes these skills to create innovative solutions to the identified improvement areas.  

What advice do you have for people looking for careers in climate and/or sustainability? 

Every job in STEM can have an impact on sustainability, and likely does. Each decision companies – both big and small – make impacts the environment around them in one way or another. The trick is learning to identify those impacts and understanding how to make a change in the positive direction. Keep learning about different technologies, both their advantages and disadvantages, and learn how to weigh options with sustainability in mind along with cost and ease of implementation.