Chemical engineering alumna named Woman of the Year in Engineering


By Tessa M. Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State chemical engineering and Schreyer Scholar alumna Paula Garcia Todd has been named Woman of the Year in Engineering by Women in Technology (WIT). She was recognized at the virtual 2020 Woman of the Year in STEAM Awards Gala on Nov. 12.

Each year, WIT celebrates female leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics with the WIT Woman of the Year STEAM Awards. According to the WIT website, the awardees are female visionaries that have made important contributions in their fields to make a difference in their communities.

“Women in Technology holds a mission to ‘empower girls and women to excel in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) from the classroom to the boardroom,’” Garcia Todd said. “I’m deeply passionate about introducing STEAM to students, especially underrepresented populations in STEAM, and serving as a role model to children who didn’t grow up with an understanding of the importance and everyday applicability of STEAM.”

To receive this award, Garcia Todd had to meet criteria in a number of categories, including inspiration, innovation, leadership and serving others.

During Garcia Todd’s professional career, she has worked to promote STEAM educational tools in K-12 classrooms, and she has become an engineering role model in her community.

Garcia Todd is currently a global strategic marketing manager at DuPont Nutrition and Bioscience, where she manages the company’s largest pharmaceutical excipient portfolio. She works to grow the company’s business by first understanding the needs of its customers. In this position, Garcia Todd also serves as a mentor to many younger employees.

“From a young age, I understood that engineers solved important problems and made an impact on everybody, and I was surrounded by an encouraging family and Penn State community that helped me believe that I was suited to be an engineer,” Garcia Todd said.

After realizing that many K-12 teachers struggle to find female role models in STEAM, Garcia Todd made it one of her goals to help address that need.

She started connecting and collaborating with local schools and organizations to introduce students to STEAM-related educational material. Before the pandemic, Garcia Todd would often visit schools to give students hands-on experience with STEAM-related topics. Now, she is able to expand her connections and virtually connect to schools and organizations across the country. She has created numerous videos that explain the various fields in STEAM and distributed that content to more than 100 schools in the Atlanta area.

“I strongly believe that bringing more girls into STEAM careers is critical toward the fight for women’s equality,” Garcia Todd said. “STEAM careers are extremely impactful and provide foundations to make strong leaders in our communities — whether that be in technical fields, business, government or any other discipline. Putting more women into these paths is what will finally ensure our voices are included and inequities are discontinued.”

In 2019, Garcia Todd was chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences as one of only 125 women across the country to become an IF/THEN ambassador. She used the grant to fund a mentorship partnership with Science ATL that supports STEM education.

“The STEM Professional School Partnership (SPSP) program partners teachers with a STEM professional for a full year to build and strengthen partnerships between schools and STEM businesses to benefit students, teachers, employees and companies,” Garcia Todd said.

Garcia Todd said she hopes that her work in her local community and with the SPSP program will help promote STEAM education and open the eyes of students to all the opportunities in the STEAM fields.

“My wish for all young girls is to be surrounded by optimism and encouragement that shows engineering has a place for them and their perspectives,” Garcia Todd said. “As women, I think it should be intrinsically part of our jobs to support other women to achieve their definition of success and to serve as role models to younger generations to demonstrate what is possible.”


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Megan Lakatos

a woman in business professional attire holding a prescription bottle stands in front of an image of a human body and smiles for photo

Paula Garcia Todd, Penn State chemical engineering and Schreyer Scholar alumna. IMAGE: PROVIDED BY PAULA GARCIA TODD