Celebrating Women in STEM Day at UNDO

February 11th is International Day for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Women in STEM Day. We want to recognise all of the inspiring women on our tireless Science and Research Team who form the foundation of our carbon removal solution. This team consists of more than 50% women in STEM fields, a uniquely high percentage, and UNDO is proud to have them powering our science. We would like to introduce you to a few of the pioneers whose expertise is advancing the field of enhanced rock weathering (ERW).

Dr Mel Murphy, Principle Geochemist

Mel is an experienced geochemist whose research focuses on understanding how physical and chemical weathering processes remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, specifically focusing on climate change and biogeochemical processes in arctic ecosystems. With over 15 years of experience as an earth scientist, Mel has a diverse background spanning academia, the private sector and the mining industry, and has experience in environmental monitoring and climate mitigation. Mel works with the wider science team to design ERW field trials to monitor and verify CO₂ sequestration, along with any soil health and crop yield benefits. She works with a team of geochemists and geochemical modellers to oversee the integration of UNDO’s lab- and field data with our weathering model. She also contributes towards ERW methodology and standard/protocol development.

Q&A with Mel

What got you into the STEM field?

“I’ve always been a self-professed nerd. As a kid, I used to ask questions constantly, and I remember getting in trouble for reading books too advanced for my age and for making ‘potions’ with my mother’s moisturisers and shampoos. I was lucky to have had a number of amazing science teachers that encouraged my curiosity. As a teenager in Australia, my neighbours were scientists, and they would let me go to their lab to do microbiological experiments for my high school project. At university, I specialised in chemistry and geology, with a minor in biology. As a geochemist, I have always loved getting into nature and doing fieldwork, as well as working in the lab. Whenever I get the chance, I still drag my friends and family on ‘field trips’ to see rock formations and look for fossils.”

Where has science led you?

“My scientific career has led me to remote and beautiful places that most people never get the chance to visit, such as Greenland. I have seen personally how climate change is melting glaciers and thawing permafrost in the Arctic. Witnessing first-hand the breakdown of Earth’s planetary systems, and seeing the devastating effects on ecosystems and communities really affected me, which has propelled me into climate mitigation research so I can help make a difference.

Working in science has allowed me to meet and collaborate with interesting people from wide-ranging communities. Within the carbon dioxide removal space, there are some amazing female scientists supporting each other both professionally and personally. I’m really glad to be a part of that network.”

What are you doing to promote science?

“I love passing on my enthusiasm and curiosity to future generations of scientists. I recently gave a guest lecture to my 6-year-old nephew’s class to share how, as a scientist, you can be an Arctic explorer. I showed them a picture of a polar bear paw print, compared to the size of my hand, and then ran around giving them all high fives so they could imagine how big the paw print really was. The kids loved it!”

Dr Amy McBride, Senior Researcher

Amy is also a geochemist. She helps validate the weathering and carbon dioxide removal rates of the crushed silicate rock we spread on agricultural land. She completed her PhD at the University of Sheffield where she investigated whether basalt-amended soils could stabilise organic carbon.

She lives near Peak District National Park and enjoys hiking, running and cycling amongst the local flora and fauna.

Q&A with Amy

What do you do at UNDO?

“At UNDO, I work between our observations (information we collect from our field trials) and predictions (from our chemical model – which predicts carbon dioxide removal based on how quickly rocks are dissolving in the soil). I try to understand how we can improve our model based on field data.

From time to time, I look at rocks to determine how suitable a rock is for us to use in our operations. I do this by seeing how much of a certain element is present (for example, calcium and magnesium) and studying how these elements have been arranged (the mineralogy of a rock).”

What got you into the STEM field?

“I’d always had a curiosity in the world, but this curiosity was more focused on the arts growing up. When I was 16, I was very much influenced by the idea of a non-STEM career; I was passionate about art history, historical poetry and most importantly for my pathway into STEM – human geography. I was planning to take English at A-level, but on a whim decided to take geology.

Geology fascinated me. By looking at a rock, you could say something about the history of that rock, in that very place. During my undergraduate degree, I learned that people measure how fast rocks dissolve, despite being told at school that they didn’t dissolve like salt does in water or sugar does in tea. Learning that rocks dissolved was an eye-opening moment for me. I dived deep into rock dissolution and hydrogeology (how water flows through rocks) while studying for my degree. Both of these subjects required a more in-depth understanding of chemistry and mathematics. My younger sister was a maths wizz and taught me calculus, and I learnt a bit more chemistry through self-study.”

Who are your inspirations?

“My biggest inspirations are those who taught with passion and care and gave students independence. My college geology lecturer, Alan Richardson, had a huge influence on me. He gave his students an opportunity to move beyond theoretical concepts with interactive laboratory demonstrations and week-long field trips. He also sought to give students the opportunity to reach their full potential in fieldwork, coursework and exams – providing independence to explore with helpful guidance along the way. For a curiosity-driven student, this was a perfect combination to springboard into a degree.

A couple of university lecturers also stand out – Arne Bomblies, a professor in hydrology when I studied at the University of Vermont, guided me through his hydrology classes.
My Master’s dissertation supervisor, Phil Renforth, introduced me to the world of enhanced weathering (which I haven’t left!). He gave me the freedom to explore the focus project (studying how fast steel slag dissolves) which set me up with the skills to interpret rock, experiment and model data that I still use today.”

Any advice for our future female scientists?

“Never say never and never say ‘It’s too late.’ There are people who have loved chemistry or mathematics from an early age. There are those who found a love for STEM after they started families. Follow your curiosity, at whatever age you encounter it.”

Tzara Bierowiec, Project Manager

Tzara helps bring our science to life by designing and building our innovation projects. Being at the forefront of what we do in an emerging industry means we are often designing challenging yet exciting projects for the very first time. She sailed full-time for 10 years before making a huge career change into project management within the technology, engineering and construction industries. Working with UNDO aligns closely with her ethos of living with the smallest possible footprint in Suffolk alongside a collie called Ru and a giant ginger hound called Nash, who likes socks very much.

Q&A with Tzara

What do you do at UNDO and what is exciting you right now in your role?

“I’m moving the scientific needle at UNDO by designing, building and managing the experiments and trials that yield important data for verification. Enhanced rock weathering is a developing and imperfect field, and we have to push things forward and refine as we go. I organise our science team to agilely carry out our trials using the best available science. This year, I’m excited to further develop our overseas operations, especially the prospect of building a team in Canada. We will need to continue to collect as much data as possible over the coming years to build the field out, and managing international teams in various regions of interest appeals to me.”

How did you get into the STEM field?

“Very indirectly. I grew up in a very practical environment. My dad’s a builder, and my whole family would get involved in his property projects as he loved renovating old properties. We would sometimes live in the kitchen on mattresses until the house is done. Both of my brothers work with their hands now as well, one a plasterer and the other an engineer.

I’ve always been interested in engineering. I interviewed to work on a boat at 18 because I loved the thought of working out of an engine room. I even applied for a scholarship as an Engineering Officer of the Watch despite knowing that the role would be a tough learning curve and place me amongst an all-male crew. I worked in sailing for 10 years, and ironically, my favourite part about it was not when I was out sailing. It was when we were doing boat refits where I’d get to pull the boat completely apart and put it back together again.

It was in my second career in construction that I found what I excelled at taking each project from design concepts right through to delivery. After a winding series of jobs, I’m working at my first startup in a science role and genuinely love it.”

How has your experience been as a woman at UNDO?

“At UNDO, I feel highly supported and championed by all my colleagues. It feels great to work in a company culture that values what you do and the only battle to be fought is the collective one to develop enhanced weathering as a scientific discipline. Joining UNDO has allowed me to grow professionally and become much more comfortable in the field of climate change. I have been given independence to gather the much-needed data we need and design our experiments with new and innovative techniques. By being empowered from the beginning, I know my work is making a direct impact on mitigating climate change.”

Amy Frew, Field Technician

Amy has a bachelor’s degree with honours in Geography and Environmental Science from the University of Dundee, where she completed a dissertation discussing the potential impacts climate change will have on e.coli growth in coastal bathing waters around Scotland. She previously worked as a Geo-Environmental Technician for Johnson Poole and Bloomer in Glasgow, which included soil sampling and ground gas monitoring as well as groundwater and surface water testing. Outside of work, Amy enjoys going to the cinema, hillwalking, and swimming. She is passionate about biodiversity conservation, particularly in the marine environment and plans to complete her Master’s degree in Marine Science.

Q&A with Amy

What do you do at UNDO?

“As a field technician, it is my responsibility to travel between sites installing and monitoring pore water sampling equipment and collecting and analysing water and soil samples from our small plot trials. My main responsibility is our flagship trial at the foot of Dumyat Hill in Stirling, Scotland. Here, I look after our two field trials as well as our mesocosm experiments.”

What got you into the STEM field?

“I grew up in a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland. I would walk down to the beach most days and slowly started to notice the degradation of the bay as more and more litter and plastic washed up on the sand. I first researched why this was happening at primary school age and have been obsessed with marine life and conservation ever since. Visibly witnessing the destruction of nature due to anthropogenic climate change has been my biggest influence in finding a career in science where I could make an impact on reversing it. I have loved the fact that my STEM career exposes me to continuous new scientific developments and discoveries. My role gives me the ability to further develop my passions and contribute to new sciences like enhanced rock weathering.”

Who are your inspirations?

“Pioneering scientists like Sylvia Earle (American marine biologist and oceanographer) and Jane Goodall (primatologist and anthropologist) have been my biggest inspirations. Of course, David Attenborough has to get a mention. Without watching his documentaries on television, I believe the majority of the population would not know as much as we do about our world and how our footprint impacts it.”

Meet more of our world-class team and explore our science.

Dive into the world of UNDO, where our diverse team of scientists, boasting an impressive representation of women in STEM, are at the forefront of climate innovation. Discover the minds and methods behind our pioneering carbon removal solutions and get inspired by their dedication to a sustainable future.