Alumni & Friends

Alumni Profile: Lucy Pettitt-Schieber Ensures Integrity of BP’s Gulf of Mexico Wellstock

Lucy Pettitt-Scieber

For the first few years of her career, Lucy Pettitt-Schieber was one of only several women – and the sole female engineer – working and living on one of the oil rigs operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

After earning her BS from Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) in December 2012, she started as a well intervention engineer with BP the following year, executing operations on the rig to help fix issues with any of the wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I had a great experience. Everyone looked out for me as a junior engineer. They knew I was there to learn. While I didn’t have a whole lot in common with the other rig crew, I grew up playing sports, so I could relate to people on that level.”

She adds: “Living on the rig two weeks on, two weeks off was important to understand all of the equipment involved as well as the lifestyle and the vocabulary. Everybody has a different word for every piece of kit on the rig. By the time you get back in the office, you’re ready to write the procedures you learned to execute out there.”

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Alumni Profile:  Mandy Salmon Wins Fulbright Award to Conduct Heart Research

Fulbright Scholar Mandy Salmon

Mandy Salmon, ChBE 2018, is researching an alternative treatment for a common heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation at Aarhus University in Denmark after receiving a Fulbright Program award.
 
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program, designed to increase mutual understanding between residents of the United States and people of other countries.
 
Salmon, who plans to attend medical school after her time in Denmark from August 2018 to June 2019, says she was drawn to medicine after working for a year as a research assistant in Professor Ajit Yoganathan’s Cardiovascular Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, where she built three-dimensional models of the heart.
 
“Doing cardiovascular research during my senior year taught me that you can apply chemical engineering to the body by running computational flow dynamic simulations, to get the pressures and velocities of blood as it flows through different parts of the heart,” she says.
 
 

Alumni Spotlight: Jim Tucker Survived Bomb Disposal Duties in World War II, Building Successful Career in Pulp and Paper

Alumnus Jim Tucker

After he interrupted his studies at Georgia Tech to serve in World War II, Jim Tucker (ChE 1947-Co-op) opted to train in the U.S. Army’s bomb disposal program, learning the design of German, Japanese, Allied, and U.S. bomb fuses, and how to identify them by touch.

“My choice of bomb disposal was based on several factors, the primary one being a desire to save lives, not take them. I also had confidence in my abilities which included attention to detail. I had repaired clocks and other mechanical devices since I was 10, taking them apart and reassembling them. I could also remain calm during crises, and had the ability to organize and direct a group.”

Today, at age 95, Tucker is one of two surviving members of the “Co-op Boys,” a group of his classmates in metro Atlanta who were called for duty after enrolling at Tech in 1939 and 1940. Tucker and fellow alumnus/veteran James Ivey still meet for lunch every other month with Marilyn Somers, director of Georgia Tech’s Living History Program.

“Our group discussions have allowed me to recall memories long stored and forgotten,” he says.

Tucker knew he’d be called for duty as soon as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor at the end of the first quarter of his sophomore year. Though he hoped he could wait until after graduating with his chemical engineering degree, he was called to active duty in April 1943.

When he selected the bomb disposal specialty, he learned it had a saying – “You go up fast!” – with a double meaning: Your military career could blow up with promotions, or you could from mistakes.

The bomb-disposal techniques he learned had been developed by the British Royal Engineers, who lost 360 of the 400 men initially assigned to this trial and error project.

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Alumni Spotlight: John Burson

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At the May 2017 doctoral and master’s Commencement ceremony, Georgia Tech awarded an honorary doctor of philosophy degree to John H. Burson III, ChE 1956, MS MET 1963, Ph.D. ChE 1964. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Institute.

The embodiment of a 21stcentury Renaissance man, Burson is a physician, a former Georgia Tech professor, a military veteran, an involved community citizen of his hometown (Carrollton, Georgia), an enthusiastic volunteer, and a generous philanthropist.

Tours of Duty
A retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, Burson served in the Army Reserves for 30 years. At the age of 70, Burson asked that he be returned to active duty, and he was deployed in Iraq for three tours in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011 as part of the military’s “Boots on the Ground Physician’s Program.” He earned combat medical badges and commendation medals.

Burson, who earned his medical degree from Emory, has had a distinguished medical career that includes service as chief of staff and chairman of the board of trustees for Tanner Medical Center from 1994-2012, an active member of the Tanner Urgent Care Clinic staff, and a self-employed physician at the Villa Rica Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic.

He is a licensed diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners, a fellow of the American Board of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He is also a professional engineer licensed in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and California. In the academic arena, Burson was an associate professor and adjunct professor in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech from 1959-1975, an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, and a principal research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s predecessor institution from 1959-1975. He received the Regents Award from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in 2015.

He has made extensive philanthropic contributions to Tech through the years.

Alumni Spotlight: BP's Keisha Wilson Tanner

Alumnus Keisha Wilson Tanner

Keisha Wilson Tanner has rarely feared moving outside of her comfort zone – from volunteering for unfamiliar career opportunities to living for a year on an oil-and-gas production/drilling platform.

Tanner – area team lead for BP’s Thunder Horse facility in the Gulf of Mexico – says, “Your career is not going to be as successful as you’d like if you’re comfortable all the time. You have to embrace change and accept new challenges.”

Inducted into the College of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in spring 2016, Tanner says she took on a major personal challenge even enrolling at Georgia Tech

A native of Nicholls, Georgia, she barely knew anything about the Institute before making a last-minute switch from attending Mercer University to accepting a Georgia Tech scholarship after a persistent bid to recruit her.

“I thought that if they were going to put this much effort into recruiting me, I was going to give it a shot,” Tanner remembers.

Competitive Streak

However, the academic challenge was initially a shock for her. Soon after she started, a family friend told her mother that she should bring Tanner home because she was surely “in over her head” having come to Tech from a small-town high school.

Tanner then posted the saying “Keisha is in over her head” on her dorm room wall, not as an admission of defeat, but as a challenge that she would emerge from successfully. “It was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m a little competitive, so it was on!,” remembers Tanner, who found time to be a cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons, dance for the Georgia Tech band, and serve as Miss Atlanta 1994.

“My time at Tech taught me that there’s not anything I can’t do. You can drop me in the wilderness, and I’m going to get out. Drop me into an ambiguous situation with no obvious solution, and I’m going to figure it out.”

An internship at an Amoco chemical plant affirmed her decision to switch her major from chemistry to chemical engineering. When the company recruited her for another internship in the offshore business unit in New Orleans, she responded, “I don’t know anything about oil and gas, so sign me up!”

BP acquired Amoco in 1998, so Tanner has effectively worked for the same company for her entire career to date.

One of Tanner’s favorite positions was the year she spent as an operations engineer on a tension-leg platform.“I’m a hands-on person, and the experience really helped me understand how an offshore facility runs and learn how to communicate with the operators,” she says.

These days, Tanner spends most of her time on dry land in Houston, Texas, as the area team lead for Thunder Horse, BP’s largest facility (the size of three football fields) in the Gulf of Mexico. She is responsible for integrating drilling and completions, operations, and major project activities to inform business strategy and deliver value.

She says she prepared herself to take on team leader roles by volunteering to accept duties, such as allocations, that weren’t part of her job descriptions. “Always deliver more than your defined responsibilities. Stretching yourself can open up opportunities you never knew you were seeking.”

This is the type of career advice she offers to undergraduate engineers as BP’s Georgia Tech Campus Champion for job recruitment.

Keisha Wilson Tanner on oil rig