Meghan Staats, 27, has always been interested in materials and polymers, she said. She took multiple polymer classes to advance her knowledge and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville.
"When I started diving into the science, I realized how ubiquitous/how much impact plastic truly had in my life and the world, and I wanted to be part of it," said Staats, whose first job was a co-op with Saudi Basic Industries Corp.
Career highlights have included being the point of contact and leader of maintenance turnaround for Lexan resin; installing actuated slide gates to reduce significant ergonomic risk; acting as a technical resource for a sister plant and troubleshooting centrifuge issues; and participating in a sustainability summit by creating the energy presentation content for the environmental segment and presenting data on climate change.
Staats has been the maintenance engineer for polycarbonate manufacturing in Mount Vernon, Ind., for the last four years and is in the process of switching roles to operations engineering in the same polycarbonate facility with a focus on specialty plastics manufacturing.
"Navigating through the different workflows and expectations has been a challenge along with learning the more complex chemistry with specialty polymers," she said. "Like many other companies, attrition is impacting our company hard with our front-line operators/employees. Working with the team to both learn the nuances of the plant as well as impart knowledge is an interesting dynamic."
Staats is the former president of Young Sabic Professionals at the Mount Vernon site and a member of the co-op recruiting team for the University of Louisville and University of Cincinnati.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Staats: Recyclable/reusable plastics. Pushes for stronger environmental regulations and reducing plastic waste has developed a new emerging market that plastics manufacturers can dive into and determine creative solutions. Plastics were an incredible solution to reducing emissions from vehicles by reducing weight of the vehicle. The industry has the opportunity to go one step forward and develop creative solutions for waste.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Staats: How quickly technology and standards advance. The industry is constantly innovating to stay a major player in the world. Microsoft and Sabic have a joint product/recycling effort using mined ocean plastic to continue the push for recycling/reusing waste. In my current capacity, we are exploring whether the plant can cost-effectively rework out-of-spec product back in through chem-ops and create prime material.
Q: What should the plastics industry do to expand its efforts in diversity and inclusion?
Staats: Building programs that allow for working mothers to be successful. Senior management positions require more sacrifice for women than men due to societal pressures. Day care offered through the company could significantly increase diversity of teams
Increase diversity in senior management positions and teams across business in general. Diversity inherently brings different perspectives that can spur creativity to help develop new ways to problem solve.
Raise awareness to industry of unconscious biases and how it can affect the workplace. Unconscious biases that go unchecked can significantly hurt inclusivity in the workplace.