By Ean Warren
Dr. Alissa Park is the Lenfest Professor in Applied Climate Science of Earth and Environmental Engineering & Chemical Engineering at Columbia University. She is also the Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute. She received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from University of British Columbia and her PhD, also in chemical engineering, from The Ohio State University.
Her research focuses on sustainable energy conversion pathways with emphasis on integrated carbon capture, utilization and storage. Founded on fundamental studies of chemical and physical interactions of natural and engineered materials with CO2, Alissa’s group is working on innovative chemical and fuel synthesis pathways using unconventional energy sources such as shale gas, biomass and municipal solid wastes. Alissa holds patents for methods and systems for carbon dioxide capture and storage. Before winning the ACS WCC Rising Star Award, Alissa received awards and honors including the NSF CAREER Award (2009) and James Lee Young Investigator Award (2010).
Alissa spoke at the ACS meeting in San Francisco about the difficulties she faced early in her career. As the first woman in her department, she felt alone and was acutely aware of being a junior faculty member. While Alissa was invited to be on many panels, she was often there as the only woman. As she gained experience, Alissa was eventually viewed as a peer to her colleagues. She said it helped having many mentors and asking questions regarding the 10-year horizon, well past short-term qualifying exams. Finally, she found she needed to trust her students to advance their science as they were integral to everyone’s success.