blog  •  Jul 20

Celebrating the Women in Science at Ascensus

International Women in Science Day 2023

Neera Shah: Senior Regulatory and Quality Specialist

Neera Shah has always been motivated by helping people and making a positive impact in the world. After she got her Bachelors in Pharmacy, she worked in a pharma and biotech company in quality assurance working to get pharmaceutical drugs approved.

In her current position with Ascensus Specialties, she acts as a mediator between the company and the FDA by looking at USDA regulations and working to get approvals for API’s going into drugs that treat many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, etc. She says, “My intention in this field is to be able to help and contribute in society…and it’s great being able to see patients recover using our drugs and see that impact on the world”. She helps with preparing documents which ultimately make new and better drugs available on the market, giving patients more options and solutions with less side effects as the chemistry and technology continues to advance.

When she isn’t working, she likes to volunteer by helping those in need in her free time as another way to give back to society. Her advice to young women looking to pursue a career in science? “Keep working with good intentions and don’t lose focus. Science is a field where we are constantly discovering new things and there is a way to truly make an impact”.

Becca Clinton: Process Engineer

Becca Clinton is a process engineer for the dry sodium borohydride area of our manufacturing facility in Elma, WA. She’s originally from that area and always wanted to settle back there with her career because of how much she loved Washington. She enjoys camping, hiking, and finding new areas in her home state to explore, but also loves to travel to new places. She’s always looking to plan her next travel adventure.

Becca attended Oregon State University and graduated in 2015 with her Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. She started working at the Elma, WA site as an intern and then joined full time right after graduation. As she was always interested in math and chemistry, she was ecstatic when she discovered that there was an engineering field that encompassed both. She says, “Since entering the field and working at a fairly small chemical plant, I’ve found that I love that my job changes every day, and it never gets old because of that.”

For any women wanting to pursue a career in a science or math-related field, she strongly encourages them to let their interests guide their career path. “I am thankful that I have a diverse toolbox of skills that aren’t solely math or science based and that I also am able to get creative with solutions and work with many different fields on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, I would also encourage anyone in any field to be open to continuous learning and growing your skillset – the world is ever-changing!”

Becca Novak: Quality Lab Technician

Becca fell in love with science when she was in fourth grade. She had an amazing teacher who she admired who loved science and taught her that science was just being curious. In high school, she spent her free periods hanging out with her science teachers and trying out experiments that they found on YouTube. Once she was in college, she loved how hands on chemistry was and got involved in research with her organic chemistry professor. There again, research was all about being curious and asking questions like “well what if you mix these together? What will happen?”

Outside of work she enjoys going to Penguin’s hockey games, trying craft beers, and hanging out with family and friends.

Her advice to younger women coming up is: “Be curious and ask questions. Stretching outside of your comfort zone is how you’ll grow the most.”

Samira Najah: Production Chemist Manager

Samira Najah began her chemistry career at the Université de Haute-Alsace, École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Mulhouse, France. Completing her Masters and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry (1990-1997), Samira left France to continue her Post-Doc at the University of Massachusetts - Boston in 1997. From 1998 to 2001, Samira conducted research as a Post-Doc fellow under Dr John Warner. Then in 2001, Samira joined Strem Chemicals and worked as a Chemist across numerous ground-breaking and innovative projects. After its acquisition by Ascensus Specialties LLC, Samira now serves as a Production Chemist Manager, overseeing projects, chemists, and her own contributions to project delivery.

Originally born and raised in Morocco, Samira has developed a keen passion for travelling the world and interacting with different cultures. In her free time, Samira loves to travel, try new cuisines, watch adventure movies, and spend time with her family.

When reflecting on her upbringing and academic pursuits, Samira's core advice to rising chemists and women in the field is this: work hard and commit to your passions. “Hard work and commitment can truly turn any difficulty into ease and will only make the journey to your goals more fruitful.”

Ruth Callaway: Laboratory Supervisor

Ruth Callaway was always interested in chemistry growing up in Elma, WA. After doing an internship in the Elma lab she was offered a position and started her career there because she enjoyed the lab work. She graduated with her chemistry degree in 1994 and started working at Ascensus (then Morton) the in 1995 as a Lab Technician. She was later promoted to the Lab Supervisor in 2019.

She still lives near Elma, WA with her husband Dave. She has three children and a grandson. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, biking, and Christmas light decorating – which she takes to another level. However, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her sweet grandson.

When asked for her advice to young women, Ruth says “If I had to give advice to any woman coming up in the science field is to value your voice and opinions. Be confident in your ideas and don’t be afraid to put them out there without fear of rejection.”

Wendy Miller: Quality Manager

Wendy Miller is the Quality Manager at our Evans City location. She has been part of the site’s Quality Team for almost 18 years. Her inspiration to seek a career in science came from a high school Organic Chemistry class she had. The teacher made learning chemistry fun and exciting.

Outside of work, her world revolves around her 13-year-old daughter who is an avid softball player and loves camping, so most of Wendy’s free time is spent at practices, tournaments, or camp. Wendy said “Someone once told me that I could not have a career and be a mother, I would need to choose. I work hard every day to prove that person wrong. My advice for young women coming up in the science field is that you can have it all…. You just need to find the balance!”

Kimberly Hentschel: Quality Assurance Specialist

Kim always enjoyed math and science, but when she took a Chemistry class in college, she loved it so much that she ended up changing her major from Engineering to Chemistry. She received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from LaRoche college and went on to start her career as a QC tech working in the lab. She has since moved into role of Quality Assurance Specialist at the Evans City facility.

She faced some initial adversity in the form of other’s doubts, and she proved them wrong: “I was told in college I wouldn’t made it in the chemistry field. Not only did I graduate with my chemistry degree, but I have worked my way up to a leadership role and now I train new QC techs hired.” While many of her job responsibilities have changed, she always loved the hands-on-work in the chemistry field and still enjoys getting to work in the lab and run samples.

Outside of work Kim spends time with her family running after her 3-year old, watching her bonus son play hockey, or walking her dogs. She also enjoys being a Mary Kay consultant, bowling, and spending time with friends.

Her advice for young women: “Never give up on your DREAMS! Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do something. If they do, work that much harder to prove them wrong.”

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