Sienna George—Toxicology Graduate Uses Inner Drive to Turn Her Visions into Reality
Talk about being driven! Sienna George, recent VBS double-major graduate, doesn’t just talk about it, she lives it. Sienna had the highest final grade point average (GPA) in the College of Agricultural Sciences at her 2013 graduation. She maintained a 3.94 GPA, while double majoring in Toxicology and Chemical Engineering, minoring in Global Health, and volunteering in her spare time. You can’t achieve all that without a little internal motivation.
Her dedication was acknowledged last year when she was chosen as Student Marshal for the College of Agriculture's summer 2013 graduation ceremonies. Sienna earned this honor through years of focused decision making and hard work.
Why Did Sienna Choose Penn
Sienna grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania. By the time she finished high school, she knew she wanted a career in engineering. However, after being the only female in her Advanced Placement (AP) classes and gaining the support of a female guidance counselor, she realized that she needed to further her education at a university that not only had a well-regarded reputation in engineering, but also had the best post-graduate network and success rate for women in the STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math).When the time came for her to choose a college, Sienna had many options—both Ivy League and state schools were knocking on her door. Sienna states that she chose Penn State because it was, “a school where I knew, if I just stepped in the front door, I’d be successful.” Penn State featured both the support network and the high-level academics she desired. It was a perfect match.
Making the Most of Her Penn State Experience
While she was at Penn State, Sienna made the most of what our University had to offer. She began with a major in chemical engineering and immediately started making important contacts by attending every outreach event possible.
During one of these events her freshman year, Sienna was picked out of a crowd by a Dow Chemical Company representative at an information session. He recognized her from a previous career fair and offered her a summer co-op at one of their locations in Michigan. It was during this experience in which she encountered her ideal job: studying how chemicals effect the environment. This revelation was a defining moment for Sienna.
She returned to Penn State in the fall and set about strategically repositioning herself to be hired into this type of position. Sienna credits guidance from Dr. Ruth Mendum, Director of the University Fellowships Office, and the VBS advising office for helping her add a toxicology double major and a global health minor to her chemical engineering degree. Dr. Mendum credits Sienna as having been “an innovative and unique scholar.” And so, with this new academic configuration, Sienna poised herself for three particularly hard-working years of studies in order to achieve her dream career.
Summers were filled with co-ops, internships, and volunteering in Central America. Sienna interned with Hoffman-La Roche, worked three co-ops at Dow, and performed a research stint in Dr. Shedra Amy Snipes's BioQualitative lab in Penn State's Biobehavioral Health Department. She was a member of the Global Water Brigades, spending time in Honduras and Nicaragua helping to develop water treatment systems for communities suffering from limited access to clean water. She also was the president of the Penn State chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, vice president of the Omega Chi Epsilon honors societies, and member of the Tau Beta Pi and Gamma Sigma Delta honors societies at Penn State.
Reaping the Rewards
Sienna makes her own luck. She puts in the long hours and intense dedication to make her visions become reality. Consistently, it pays off. In fact, before she was graduated from Penn State, she already had secured a coveted position at Dow in Houston, Texas.
Her official title now is, “Environmental and Utilities Production Engineer.” Sienna is in charge of the utilities and environmental competencies of an ethylene plant; the quality of its air, water, and ground emissions. The chemical engineering education comes into play with the process control, and the toxicology education helps her understand the effect of chemicals on the environment.
Spare time? If she has any, she uses it to establish a professional network in Houston. She also helps with various events to improve her new community and is involved in Girl Scouts as a junior troop leader. Sienna makes time for outdoor fun thanks to the warm southern weather; she enjoys running, golf every day of the week, and coastal fishing.
Advice for Incoming Freshman
Sienna’s kernel of wisdom is to remind freshmen, “It’s never too early to start thinking long-term about your career and what you want from life.” She suggests, “Picture yourself in different roles, in different places; to imagine what 'fits' you best.”
Even now, as a young professional, networking is important to Sienna. She uses many social media tools to share her professional vision with the outside world. She recommends Penn State students network, too: “Attend all the career fairs, company events, graduate school receptions, etc. that you can. The more points of contact you make with potential employers or schools, the more opportunities you may be presented with.”
Volunteering is important, too – Sienna truly enjoys helping others and realizes it provides a way to grow one’s own abilities, too. “It can be used to benefit both the organization and you, which means you both will get more out of it,” she explains. Choosing the right organization to help is a personal choice. Sienna determines which organizations allow her to make the largest impact. For example, she chose Global Water Brigades so she could work with her background in chemistry and fluid systems, and because of her desire for others to have clean water.
Where Will Sienna Go from Here?
With someone this driven, you can bet Sienna is not going to rest on her laurels. She already is laying the groundwork for her future role in water treatment processes and sees herself being involved in larger environmental programs. She says, “Because Dow designs and manufactures products that touch so many people, it a great place for me to make a difference in the world at large.” Remember the name Sienna George. Chances are you will be hearing it again in the future: the Penn State graduate with a drive strong enough to accomplish anything on which she sets her sights.