October 7, 2021
Staff Accomplishment

PNNL Researchers at Helm of Local American Chemical Society Section Board

Six PNNL chemists and chemical engineers hold positions on executive board

Woman at benchtop in lab coat

Mariefel Olarte

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Mariefel Olarte, a chemical engineer, was appointed chair of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Richland Section. As chair, Olarte presides over the monthly executive board meeting for the local section, coordinates the activities of the local committees, and acts as one of the coordinators between the local section board and the national ACS organization.

Olarte served as section secretary in 2018 and was one of the Volunteer of the Year awardees in 2019. In 2020, she became the section chair-elect and served as the Programs Committee chair, where she took the lead in organizing a panel of invited speakers that tackled diversity and inclusion issues in support of the local section’s stand on diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect. She has been active in several section activities, such as ACS Program-In-A-Box, co-organized with Washington State University; Earth Day; a Darigold plant tour; and socials.

Her research at PNNL focuses on catalytic upgrading of bio-oils to produce hydrocarbons and the analysis of the reactant and product streams.

In addition to Olarte, five PNNL researchers have assumed executive board positions:

  • Chemist Sandy Fiskum is the past chair and serves as the chair of the Awards Committee. During her tenure as chair, the section stood up the new Women Chemist and Government Affairs committees and supported several student outreach activities, among several other activities.
  • Chemical engineer Cristina Padilla-Cintron is the chair-elect and serves as the Program Committee chair. Her research at PNNL focuses on demonstrating the production of metal oxide microspheres by sol-gel synthesis.  She is a key member of PNNL’s Excise Forensics Laboratory, and she coordinated the first virtual outreach event of the section supported by the ACS Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect Grant, which impacted 376 local seventh-grade students.
  • Chemist Deepika Malhotra is serving as treasurer. At PNNL, Malhotra is focused on designing and synthesizing modular solvents for CO2 capture and acid gas separations.
  • Chemist Shirmir Branch is secretary and current Women Chemists Committee chair. Her work at PNNL involves developing methods for measuring radioactive elements—specifically technetium-99—in nuclear waste stored in underground tanks.
  • Chemist and chief scientist David Heldebrant is an alternate counselor. At PNNL, his current research focuses on applying the principles of green chemistry to improve atom and energy efficiency, reducing the toxicity of chemical processes, and making energy-related processes more environmentally benign.

In addition to the executive board, staff at PNNL serve as committee chairs and members:

“I have been very excited to serve with my colleagues on the ACS Richland Section board. It’s been great working with this group of folks who are passionate about chemistry and are very much engaged in finding ways to reach out to more of our members and the greater community, especially the students, who are our future scientists and engineers,” said Olarte.

Learn more about the ACS Richland Section.

Published: October 7, 2021