A Day in the Life of Chemical Engineer Rosa Rueda, Ph.D.

Meet Rosa Rueda, Ph.D., a chemical engineer from Colombia who now works as a Product Quality Specialist for the Whiting Refinery in Indiana.
A Day in the Life of Chemical Engineer Rosa Rueda, Ph.D.
Rosa Rueda professional headshot
Chemical Engineer Rosa Rueda

I am the youngest of four siblings, and although my parents only had primary school, they always supported our education and encouraged us to go to college and get a professional degree.

I followed my sister who chose Chemical Engineering. When I was in high school, I had conversations with her about all the different industries where a Chemical Engineer can make contributions from food processing and biotechnology to oil and gas. This versatility is what I found most fascinating.

I am from Barichara, a very small town in Colombia. This town is located a couple of hours away from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, which is one of the best universities in engineering in Colombia. I knew that if I wanted to get admitted, I had to work hard. This paid off, as I was awarded a scholarship by the National Government. Fast forward five years, I graduated with a Summa Cum Laude distinction.

After graduation, I moved to Barrancabermeja, also known as the “oil capital” in Colombia. I worked for a company that produced gasoline, diesel additives and asphalt emulsions for road pavement.

A few months later, I heard of job openings at Colombian National Oil Company for a “new professionals” program. There were thousands of candidates, yet confident of myself, I applied and got selected as part of a group of 105 professionals. I had the great opportunity to get extensive training on different areas and connect with lots of people.

Three years later, I was on an airplane to Canada to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Despite the challenges of moving away from friends and family, and a different language, I truly believed that my graduate studies would help me in growing not only professionally, but also as a person. I got to work with well-known people in the heavy oil processing community in a research program sponsored by ExxonMobil.

Right at the end of my Ph.D., I got hired by BP as a project leader in England to work at the Refining Technology and Engineering department. A year and a half later, I got transferred to Naperville, Illinois. In these roles, I supported the refineries that BP has across the globe to prevent unexpected issues caused by the formation of deposits in their equipment.

I also got closely involved with SWE and volunteered as Collegiate Liaison, and later as Vice-President of Outreach.

Last year, I backfilled for six months the Crude Scheduler role at the Whiting Refinery in Indiana. This was a fast-paced operational role, quite different from what I had done so far in my career. This opened the opportunity to transfer my skills to my current role as Product Quality Specialist. I am now responsible for the process improvement cycle of the Whiting Refinery Product Quality Management System.

Takeaways from my experience is to believe in yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Remember that in life nothing is granted—you need to work hard to achieve your dreams and never stop learning. When the path you chose gets tough, don’t quit. It is in these moments that, besides all the people who believe in you, you must believe in yourself.

“Believe in yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Remember that in life nothing is granted—you need to work hard to achieve your dreams and never stop learning. When the path you chose gets tough, don’t quit. It is in these moments that, besides all the people who believe in you, you must believe in yourself.”

– Rosa Rueda, Chemical Engineer


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