By Maria Ferraro
Meet Molly McGiles, a passionate and motivated chemical engineer. Since she was young, McGiles has been digging deeper into the world of engineering — with a desire to make a difference not only in the industry, but also in the world. McGiles is working as an asset integrity analyst for PinnacleART, an engineering and technology company in Houston. McGiles said, “I want to challenge myself to make the largest difference I can in my industry … I want to help build [my] team and [make the] company stronger to produce the most reliable products possible.”
McGiles was born and raised in Jacksonville. She graduated from Jacksonville High School where she found her passion — engineering. McGiles stated, “Both of my parents are proud local educators who supported me in exploring my passion for engineering from a young age.” McGiles was eager to learn and explore engineering as a child. She says, “I took an interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) world and took advantage of every opportunity to learn more by attending camps or events for kids.” While attending a summer engineering camp, a professor described chemical engineers as people who make the great discoveries and turn them into something from which everyone in the world can benefit. McGiles stated, “I wanted to do that. I wanted to challenge myself everyday to make a difference in the world around me.” After graduating high school, she attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she earned her B.S. in chemical engineering.
McGiles found engineering the challenge she was looking for, saying, “When I first started in chemical engineering at school, I was both excited and nervous … chemical engineering, as a degree, was not a walk in the park.” But, chemical engineering came alive for McGiles when she began underclassmen courses in the lab. She said, “I was convinced that I was going to enter the food or cosmetic industry. I wanted to be in the lab testing quality and analyzing data to make better products.” Still up for a challenge, McGiles seized the opportunity to intern at a nuclear power plant in California, getting hands-on experience problem solving in the Pacific. Although she never pictured herself inside of a nuclear reactor or working on distillation tower corrosion maintenance, McGiles stated, “You really never know if you love something until you try it. [When I tried it], I fell in love with this industry.”
Forward to the present — McGiles works at PinnacleART, a company that designs, implements, and maintains comprehensive reliability and integrity programs to clients in the oil and gas, mining, chemical, pharmaceutical, wastewater and power industries. In her job, McGiles works to create a customized program for clients that mitigate the risk of loss of containment (any failure in the piping or equipment within a plant) to ensure safety and standard compliance. Using knowledge of chemical processes, equipment and materials, she and her team develop plans for specific areas of plants that are more susceptible to loss of containment. McGiles says, “[Our work] prevents leaks, fires and explosions, saving millions of dollars and lives in process plants all over the world.”
McGiles stated, “I am so thankful for my teachers, coaches, family members and mentors who continuously challenged me in every aspect of my life. Without being presented challenges and deciding to rise to the occasion, I would not have been a successful student or chemical engineer.”
McGiles is not sure what the future holds for her, but she stated, “This industry and degree really opened an infinite number of doors filled with unique opportunities for me to take advantage of and I will explore every option.” She finished, “No matter where I am or what position I have, I will always encourage others, especially other females, to explore their passions for engineering. I want to be the one who sparks that joy for engineering they never knew existed within them.”