Margaret Wu: Breaking barriers

Behind the energy

For me, overcoming professional barriers is all in a day’s – or life’s – work.

I began my career in 1976 as the first woman with advanced degrees to work at ExxonMobil’s renowned research lab in Edison, New Jersey. Fast-forward to today, a few years after my retirement, and I am the first woman from ExxonMobil to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, a top honor for any scientist.

I’m very proud to have those bookends to my career.

Over my 40 years at the company, I pioneered and collaborated with many talented scientists on several innovations that led to my authorship of more than 100 U.S. patents. Among these breakthroughs was the creation of a new class of synthetic lubricant that offered greater energy efficiency and protection. That product, which took my team and me decades to develop, is still used in Mobil 1 formulations.

As I pushed forward synthetic lubricant research throughout the years, I also witnessed firsthand a shift in the makeup of my workplace. Frankly, in the 1970s, there were few woman scientists or engineers in the lab. But that has changed. Over the years, I have been heartened to see the growing number of women joining and taking leadership roles in research at ExxonMobil.

In 2016, I fully retired after working for several years as emeritus senior science advisor, the highest-ranking technical position in the company. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish with my team and am excited to pass the baton on to other women scientists.

If my work taught me anything, it’s that there’s always something new to discover.

I look forward to watching the next generation of scientists and engineers create an even more energy-efficient future.

Tags:   National Academy of Engineeringwomen in stem
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