06 March 2023
Having a passion for sustainability from a young age led Lauren to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Leeds. After earning her degree, she completed the Cheshire Energy Hub Graduate Programme, which offers job placements with power and energy sector employers in Cheshire.
Lauren then joined Urenco, an international supplier of fuel cycle products for the nuclear power industry, at its UK enrichment facility in Capenhurst. As Site Net Zero Lead, Lauren is focused on finding revolutionary new ways to achieve carbon-free operations on an industrial site.
Putting my recycling into the right bin at home, carrying my reusable water bottle wherever I go; ever since I can remember, I’ve been doing what I could to protect the environment.
I’ve always had a huge interest in sustainability, and how humans have a significant influence on the natural world. Growing up, I knew that I wanted a job that would have a positive impact on nature and the climate, but I had no idea what that would look like...just yet.
I studied maths, science and geography at A-level as these were all subjects that I enjoyed and also touched on my interest in the environment. But it was only when I was looking at university courses that I discovered Chemical Engineering.
It was the perfect course for me - giving me the practical knowledge and skills needed to change the world for the better. At university, I specialised in sustainable energy and green technologies and decided to pursue a career in sustainable engineering.
My job now is Site Net Zero Lead, which means that I am responsible for working to reduce the carbon emissions for all the processes we do at Urenco.
Each day, I work on answering the question of how the company will achieve net zero*. In practice, this covers things like company culture and behaviour, perhaps can we encourage people to cycle to work instead of taking their car, for example. Or technical solutions, such as finding alternatives to burning fossil fuels. As my role covers the whole site, I also spend lots of my time out in the processing plants with engineers and talking with different departments and teams to figure out specific net zero solutions for their areas.
The most exciting part for me is the fact that my work will have a positive impact on the world, as I’m helping to protect the planet from the climate crisis. It makes me think of how proud my younger self would be.
But it’s not always as easy and straightforward as it sounds! The targets Urenco has set for net zero are industry-leading, which means a huge amount of innovation is required. Our team works together, bounces ideas off each other, and thinks outside of the box to achieve the right solutions.
Discussions I have every day become a source of inspiration for new ideas and new ways of approaching the problem. I’m really lucky to work with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds which is the key to our innovative solutions. I couldn’t do my job without connecting with other people on a daily basis to help talk through and solve problems. I am also a huge advocate for being able to be fully yourself at work. I think this is really important when making connections with people and making everyone in the team feel safe and able to share their ideas.
I think there’s a stereotype about science and engineering that there isn’t a place for young women. It's true that I often walk into a meeting and I am the only female, but I have also worked with many strong women who are paving the way for the future of women in STEM** careers. I also have many male colleagues who are allies in smashing this stereotype too, but there is definitely room for improvement. I would love for young women to look at careers in engineering and know that there is a place for them, just like there was for me.
Working on the problem of climate change can seem daunting at times, because of the scale of the problem. But this is also what inspires me to keep going. Through engineering, I’ve got to develop new ways of monitoring the energy performance of equipment, I’ve fed into new processes for waste management, and even worked on strategies for the business.
There’s so much to get involved with to have a real impact on the world. What problem do you want to solve?
Click here for more scientists who are Smashing Stereotypes.
*Net zero is the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.
**STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and maths.
*** Lauren is standing in front of an image of the enrichment plant. When actually on-site the workforce wear full safety PPE.
Urenco is an international supplier of enrichment services and fuel cycle products with sustainability at the core of its business. Operating in a pivotal area of the nuclear fuel supply chain for 50 years, Urenco facilitates zero carbon electricity generation for consumers around the world.
With its head office near London, UK, Urenco’s global presence ensures diversity and security of supply for customers through enrichment facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. Using centrifuge technology designed and developed by Urenco, and through the expertise of our people, the Urenco Group provides safe, cost effective and reliable services; operating within a framework of high environmental, social and governance standards, complementing international safeguards.
Urenco is committed to continued investment in the responsible management of nuclear materials; innovation activities with clear sustainability benefits, such as nuclear medicine, industrial efficiency and research; and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers.