Chemical engineering alum becomes ambassador for girls interested in STEM


By Jamie Oberdick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While roughly one-third of girls say they have considered a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career, only one-quarter actually pursue that path. Looking to improve on that statistic are chemical engineers like Paula Garcia Todd, who was recently selected as an IF/THEN ambassador of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).

Garcia Todd, global strategic marketing manager of drug delivery technologies with DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, earned her bachelor of science and master of science degrees in chemical engineering at Penn State in 2003. She will bring her passion for science and mentoring to the next generation of STEM women through her year-long ambassadorship. As a first step, the ambassadors will connect with middle-schoolers both in person and through online platforms to serve as their personal mentors. Using the $5,000 ambassador stipend, Garcia Todd will work with teachers to create solutions to identify and access STEM corporate outreach programs like those offered through DuPont.

“Growing up in a family of engineers, I was constantly surrounded by examples of how those who worked in STEM improved the lives of others,” Garcia Todd said. “That inspiration led me to the pharmaceutical space, and as an IF/THEN ambassador, I hope to introduce young women to the magic that happens when the impossible is met with innovative solutions.”

Another inspiration for Garcia Todd to help girls interested in STEM is the support she received as a Penn State chemical engineering student.

“I felt incredibly supported while at Penn State,” she said. “I received a lot of support from the chemical engineering department, including my adviser Wayne Curtis (Penn State professor of chemical engineering), the Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion and the Schreyer Honors College. This enabled me to graduate with both my bachelor and master’s degrees within five years.”

The IF/THEN initiative was created by the AAAS and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to empower innovators to use their firsthand experiences in the field to inspire and motivate middle-school girls to seek STEM careers. More than 100 women were selected for the initiative to serve as the first group of ambassadors based on their contributions to advance the industry; experience in communication and public engagement via media, classroom and public programs; and their desire to impact youth.

The award initiative was recently featured in Forbes Magazine.

“Paula’s efforts will support and impact the lives of these young girls and their communities and help create equal opportunities for women across STEM industries,” said Angela Strzelecki, global business director, pharma solutions, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. “It’s a true example of how our teams advance DuPont’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and I’m thrilled to see how Paula will help contribute.”

Throughout her 16 years with DuPont, and previously Dow, Garcia Todd has been an asset to driving pharmaceutical product innovation and a champion for diversity and inclusion efforts. She has contributed expertise through roles in engineering, research and development, technical support and various marketing and product management positions. In addition to her role at DuPont where she directs new product strategy and identifies pharmaceutical needs to accelerate customer growth and innovation, Garcia Todd volunteers in college environments and local communities and serves on several boards focused on increasing STEM opportunities.

Garcia Todd and her fellow ambassadors were celebrated for their achievements and initiated into the program at the IF/THEN Summit in Dallas, where they collaborated on ways to encourage, coach and influence their mentees during their yearlong commitment. In addition to these honorees, AAAS invited dozens of organizations including Girl Scouts of the USA, National Geographic, Teach for America, U.S. Soccer and the World Wildlife Fund to become coalition members in this effort and further promote STEM to young girls through the involvement of the chosen ambassadors.

“When I visit middle school classrooms around the country to be an example of an engineer as part of my ambassadorship, I will represent not only my own background, but also the success stories of the numerous female engineers who have graduated from Penn State,” Garcia Todd said.


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Megan Lakatos

Head and shoulder image of woman

Paula Garcia Todd. IMAGE: DUPONT



The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

121 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2574