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Barbara Kutchko working in lab
NETL’s Kutchko to Share Experiences at Penn State Women in Energy Seminar

Barbara Kutchko, Ph.D., a celebrated and award-winning NETL researcher who works to increase the safety and efficiency of oil and gas well operations around the world, will share her technical and personal perspectives with a new generation of young people as part of Penn State University’s Celebrating Women in Energy and Water Research seminar series in February.

Kutchko, a senior research scientist who specializes in wellbore isolation, oil well cementing and subsurface materials characterization, was invited to present in the prestigious seminar series by Chiara Lo Prete, an associate professor of energy economics at Penn State who heads up her department’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“The objective of this seminar series is twofold,” Prete wrote. “Engage women students in research activities to enhance retention and promote academic and research-related careers and provide opportunities to faculty to establish and nurture their professional network and mentoring relationships.”

Kutchko, who was recently named by Stanford University as one of the top 2% of global scientists for single-year impact, was also a recipient of a Women in Energy Leadership Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times for her work as a third-party analyst during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill — work that also enabled her to become a Society of Petroleum Engineers Distinguished Lecturer.

She said her career highlight was getting the oil and gas community to work together to ensure the safe drilling and cementing of wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kutchko will deliver two talks as part of her participation in the Penn State seminar: a technical talk about her work in the energy arena, and a second presentation sharing her career path and lessons learned along the way.

She has strong feelings about involving more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She said she believes it is critical for young women to have role models and noted that hers were Jane Goodall and Sally Ride.

“We simply cannot leave half of Earth’s population behind when it comes to STEM,” she once explained. “Too often, I have walked into a conference or workshop and been the only woman. I distinctly remember one conference where I was giving a talk. I looked down and in the front row was a group of young women all smiling up at me. It was then that I realized I had shifted to being a role model myself. Women are important in developing the technological advancement of our future. We need to nurture that in any way we can.”

Kutchko’s work is recognized around the world as one of the best sources for reliable information about the performance of foamed cements in oil and gas wellbores. The increased use of foamed cement systems in high-stress environments makes understanding its stability in the wellbore vital.

Kutchko and her team study atmospheric and field generated foamed cement samples to determine which variation can best ensure quality, reduce cost, decrease waste, and support safer oil and gas recovery operations under a variety of conditions.

She has a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University in civil and environmental engineering and a master’s degree in geology from the University of Pittsburgh. She has a long record of collaborating with teams of diverse researchers, professors, students, and industry experts to plan, manage and execute research related to energy production.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant, and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.