University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 3/1996
Alumni Profile: Alumna combines engineering and education
     Do you like crossword puzzles and mystery novels?" asks Lori
Hasselbring, Delaware '88PhD, when she visits children at local
schools. "How about your VCR? Did you ever take it apart to see
how it works?"
     Affirmative answers to these questions excite Hasselbring,
she says, because she sees in such children the next generation
of engineers.
     A chemical engineer for Phillips Petroleum Co., Hasselbring
says she enjoys introducing children to careers
they might not have considered. Her contributions to engineering
education, combined with excellence on the job, have earned
Hasselbring the recognition of her colleagues nationwide.
     Last summer, she was honored by the National Society of
Professional Engineers as Young Engineer of the Year, joining
only a handful of women who have received this distinction in the
25 years of its existence.
     Hasselbring says she hopes to be an inspiration to children
with a talent for math and science. Perhaps it's because she's a
woman in a male-dominated field: Only 10 percent of engineers are
female, and that number is considerably less in the petroleum
     Married and the mother of two young children, Hasselbring
began volunteering in education programs in Bartlesville, Okla.,
when she was asked to judge a science fair eight years ago. While
serving as chairwoman of the education committee for the
Bartlesville section of the American Institute of Chemical
Engineers in 1991, Hasselbring says she realized that local
engineers could be contributing even more to education if their
efforts were better organized.
     Hasselbring's solution, which earned her the accolade from
the National Society of Professional Engineers, was to establish
the Education Career Development Committee. This umbrella
organization combines the outreach programs of Bartlesville's 13
technical societies-with their more than 100 volunteers-for the
benefit of children in the 15 elementary to secondary schools
there and in the surrounding area. Enthusiastic volunteers now
offer career-day talks and hands-on physical science
experiments-programs developed in consultation with teachers who
also serve on the commitee.
     Hasselbring says she especially enjoys talking to 7th- and
8th-grade girls about careers in engineering. Research has shown
that girls this age begin to lose confidence in themselves and,
simultaneously, lose interest in math and science. For this
reason, Hasselbring speaks to them separately, encouraging them
to believe in themselves and to pursue careers in fields they
might have perceived as "male."
      But, it's not just female engineers Hasselbring hopes to
influence. She addresses groups of boys just as frequently, and
sometimes teaches the engineering merit badge for the local Boy
Scout troop. "People ask me why I teach boys instead of just
concentrating on girls. I want boys to see that women are
successful engineers, too," Hasselbring says. "I want them to get
used to the idea that they will be working side-by-side with
women engineers."
     The local schools also benefit from the computer expertise
of the volunteers, who offer recommendations on what equipment to
purchase and help set it up once it arrives.
     Hasselbring approaches her work at Phillips with the same
enthusiasm and innovation. Originally hired to develop catalysts
for the production of specialty chemicals, she moved on to the
plastics division and then to the petrochemicals division, where
she developed computer models that identify the most efficient
way to manufacture the ethylene used to make plastics.
     Hasselbring had never before tried computer simulation. She
sought out the assignment in an effort to refine her computer
skills, approaching the challenge the same way she does any
problem. "I read, took short courses and talked to people," she
     Recently, Hasselbring was transferred to Phillips' K-Resin
plant in Houston. She has six U.S. patents for work done at
Phillips, and she has published numerous technical articles.
                             -Theresa Gawlas Medoff, Delaware '94