Maria Jesus Luchsinger Morcelle
Advanced Analytics Engineer-Manufacturing
Have fun and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a chemical engineer working on developing data models/analysis deployed in factories for process improvement/optimization (Data science), contextualized with engineering knowledge. I had past experience with simulation-based models (physics/chemistry) in the chemical industry. I am focused on understanding the interaction of data models with existing technologies in manufacturing: process control, automation, optimization and simulations. Advanced analytics ( or machine learning) is well understood in different industries, but in the chemical one is still in progress.
Please find a link to a podcast episode I participated in here:https://ordinarily-extraordinary.com/episode-40-maria-jesus/ - Episode 41 – Maria Jesus Luchsinger – Ordinarily Extraordinary (ordinarily-extraordinary.com)
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
During my high school I always thought I did not want to become an engineer, but I believe I did not know what engineering really was. During my first chemistry class I liked it so much that I began focusing on that area. I remember at that point I was interested on CO2 carbon capture and was emailing researchers in UK doing work on this to try to replicate their experiments. However, I began realising that I really liked mathematics and I had a tiny interest on computers. I was really interested on scaling chemistry and that’s why I chose chemical engineering, because I felt it combined both chemistry and math to scale processes and I focused on developing projects related to this on my bachelors. After my bachelors, I wanted to explore the area of process simulations, as I felt I was lacking more detailed work, but did not got an opportunity to go deep into that till my masters internship. There I focused on chemical processes simulations models but also was lucky enough to learn the data based models (machine learning). I did not know this was machine learning or AI, for me they were data models to optimize production, later I realised that all that was machine learning. The fact of being able to see how mathematics and chemical process details implemented in some computer were able to operate the plant better, was magical for me. I also enjoyed the conversations on why an algorithm performs good or bad and the relationship with the systems in the plant where is implemented with the process control and automation employees. So, at the end I found something that combined all of my interests: chemical engineering, mathematics and computers. I guess I like the software side of chemical manufacturing.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
I still face challenges in a balanced way and I think this is what keeps me growing. I am a very curious person persevering to understand from others and get to the root of a topic and this is how I usually tackle challenges. Sometimes it has happened that I talk with people that don’t share the same interests or mindset, so I practice listening without judging and learning from their point of view. I really want to get the whole picture.
When starting with computer simulations I didn’t know all details of the chemical process. How I tackled it is that I sought to talk with the most experienced people on this so that I could learn from them and that helped me have success.
Also, I had a temporary job during my studies that involved negotiating distribution deals for a startup on different countries. This took me out of my comfort zone and I had to take the approach “fake it until you make it”, which allowed me to grow my interpersonal skills.
What I am still learning to do is to advocate for myself in an assertive way.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
The bad economic situation in Venezuela always made me think that it would be difficult to find a job in my field. Some people told me chemical engineering was a very bad choice to find a job. I was worried about this so even from Venezuela I started researching for opportunities inside and outside the country. I was lucky and fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do my master’s in the Netherlands. After finishing, I realised that chemical engineering has a lot of possibilities and it surprised me that it was possible to find something I would enjoy doing.
I also realised there are many volunteering organizations that make an impact in the world with the use of STEM. This was also very important to me as I wanted to use my knowledge to work on important topics. I currently volunteer in Engineer’s Without Borders Netherlands to keep a balance between the high tech in my daily job and the other issues out there affecting communities, which engineers should pay attention to.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love that science is a very objective field with the goal to understand reality as close as possible. It is about being curious and open minded and not always right. It is not about proving you are correct or pushing for an approach, but rather trying hard to get to the core of nature. Nature will continue to be what it is without caring about your opinions, so science teaches you to be humble.
Once this is done, engineers can use the knowledge of science to improve things or build new stuff that can advance society. Using science building blocks (resulting from a humbling process of understanding) ,engineers do their magic to combine them on creative ways and scale their solutions in an efficient and economic way so they are sustainable to improve the world. This is what I like.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Don’t let physical external factors like your gender or origin affect you. Focus on surrounding yourself/seeking people who are 1000x better than you and have different points of view so you can learn and grow. I rather be in a room where I know the least than be somewhere where I am the “expert”. Have fun and do not be afraid to make mistakes.
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less" - Marie Curie
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance" —Confucius
"The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about." —Wayne Dyer