Profile: Selda Gunsel, Ph.D. (NAE)
A passion for problem solving and mathematics are what first convinced Shell’s Vice President of Global Commercial Technology Selda Gunsel, Ph.D., to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. Looking back after a long, successful career in the industry, she says she loves the foundation and the flexibility the chemical engineering education provided her at the beginning of her career. However, it was postgraduate work at Penn State University that allowed Dr. Gunsel to see how chemical engineering can collaborate with other disciplines to create innovative solutions to complex problems.
In 2017, Dr. Gunsel was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for her leadership in developing and manufacturing advanced fuels and lubricants to meet growing global energy demand while reducing CO2 emissions.
Dr. Gunsel connected with TAMEST to tell us more about her life and work:
What made you get into your field of research?
In my postgraduate studies in chemical engineering, I had the opportunity to do research in the multidisciplinary field of tribology, which combined chemical and mechanical engineering, chemistry and materials science to solve industrial problems.
I was fascinated by the multi-disciplinary nature of the research program. I worked on exciting projects such as developing next-generation aircraft turbine engine oils, synthetic base oils and new lubrication systems for metalworking operations. As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to transfer a new technology we developed in the lab to Alcoa.
What do you wish more people knew about your work?
Energy lights, cools, heats our homes, our schools, our businesses. It connects and transports people and goods. It enables critical industrial processes that produce materials for building our world’s infra-structure.
I am proud to work for a company that can make a difference in the global energy system and help improve lives across the world. At Shell, our purpose is to power progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions.
I find it extremely exciting to work with our partners to develop a range of solutions in a changing world and enable transition of our energy system to a low carbon future.
What advice would you give to people starting out in STEM careers?
I developed technical and leadership skills by getting involved in professional organizations relevant to my job very early in my career. Mentors can also play a key role in guiding early-career professionals.
At Shell, we offer “assessed internship programs,” which allow college students to have work experience during summer months and at the same time provide an opportunity for employers to assess students’ capabilities. At the end of the internship period, successful students go back to college with a firm offer in their hand post graduation.
I would also recommend STEM graduates to get actively involved in professional engineering/science societies. Getting involved in these organizations helps build networks, external profile and credibility.
What value do you think TAMEST brings to Texas?
TAMEST is a unique organization that brings together the state’s top achievers in medicine, engineering, science and technology. TAMEST has a key role to play in fostering collaboration and advancing research and innovation in Texas.
Why do you work and live in Texas?
There are great job opportunities for what I do in Texas. Particularly in Houston, which is a major energy hub. I started my career here with Pennzoil and continued to work in Houston as I transitioned into Shell.
I now have a global leadership role where I lead a global team of scientists and engineers around the world. My home base is still in Texas because I enjoy the diversity and global reach it offers.