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Keynote Speaker, Fall 2002 Event

Theodora Lengowski
Process Engineer 
BP - Carson Refinery

Current Role
The Carson Business Unit is a large crude oil refinery located in Carson California.  We make the clean fuels (gasoline, jet and diesel) that help reduce air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin.

As Optimization Manager, I am responsible for a group of 40 engineers who support the actual operation of the refinery.  Their work includes troubleshooting equipment problems, designing control systems, selecting crude oils and preparing product blends. 

College graduates are hired directly into our group.

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota on 1973. That year 4000 engineers earned their engineering degrees in the United States. Less than ten were women.

Education doesn’t stop with a degree.  Every year I attend seminars to help me improve my leadership and communication skills.  I’ve also taken finance and technical classes to help improve my skills as an engineer.

Interesting Roles and Experiences
Process engineering has been my favorite role.  In this role you get involved in the daily operation of a plant.  You help solve problems and you get to come up with ways to make things work better.  My first job after graduating was working as a process engineer in a plant that made fuel elements for nuclear reactors in Richland Washington.  From there I transferred to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and started working, again as a process engineer, in an oil refinery. 

Next I moved into leadership roles.  I’ve managed operating groups whose units made gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, recovered sulfur and cleaned water.  In another management role I was responsible for the operation of a Power Plant (It’s product could supply the daily electrical needs of the city of Long Beach).  These positions allowed me to move back to Washington and then to California.

As a process design/plant startup engineer I spent four months in China training operators on the startup of an LPG plant.  This plant received and distributed butane and propane fuels that were used to cook and heat homes.  For the bulk of the time I worked only with people whose second language was English.  Between the cultural and the communication challenges this was both the most demanding and rewarding opportunity of my career.

Engineering as a Career
When I was in high school two significant events were occurring. Nuclear power was being developed as the ultimate energy source and the USA was in a race to put a man on the moon.  Both of these events needed engineers to make them happen.  I wanted to be a part of this so I chose chemical engineering as my major.