People of Reclamation: Meet Katie Guerra, Chemical Engineer

Written by: Emily Quinn

Katie Guerra, Chemical Engineer
Katie Guerra, Chemical Engineer
Reclamation employs some of the top engineering experts in the world. Katie Guerra is one of those experts. She first attended the University of Colorado where she received her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. She then went on to pursue her Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering, and Doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado School of Mines. Today, Katie is a Chemical Engineer in the Water Treatment Group – part of Reclamation’s Technical Service Center in Denver, Colorado.

Before joining Reclamation, Katie worked as a student in the Professional Research Experience Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. It was while she was working for NIST that she discovered Reclamation. Shortly thereafter, Katie was hired by Reclamation as a student, and was later converted to a full-time position upon graduation.

During Katie’s 16 years with Reclamation she has been involved in some really interesting and important projects. Between 2004 and 2008, she worked on activities aimed at improving water management strategies for “produced water,” the by-product water generated in the oil and gas industry during extraction and enhanced recovery operations. Katie said, “The project was exciting because our team was working on something highly relevant, timely, and effective.”

Currently, Katie is involved in several projects. She is the Project Manager for the Yuma Desalting Plant Pipe Replacement Project. The purpose of this project is to replace old piping in the desalting portion of the Yuma Desalting Plant. “This project is important because the Yuma Desalting Plant may eventually play a significant role in increasing future water supplies for users in the Colorado River Basin.” Katie says, “Replacing this pipe will ensure that when the plant is needed it will operate safely and reliably.”

During her time with Reclamation, Katie hopes to play a supportive role for young Reclamation employees. “To get to where I am today, the most important factor has been the people who supported and encouraged me. The support came from managers, mentors, professors and senior employees,” she said.

In the Water Treatment Group, Katie and her colleagues are responsible for assessing water treatment needs impacting impaired water sources. “We provide water treatment design and research services to clients in each of Reclamation’s regions, and in various program offices,” said Katie. “Our design projects involve identifying the most technologically and economically appropriate technologies for an impaired water source.”

The group’s research projects focus on the development of new water treatment technologies and improvement of existing technologies. The results of their work will advance water treatment so that it becomes a more viable option for projects in which conventional water supply alternatives are not feasible.

While she was still a student, Katie spent many hours in the lab building bench scale water treatment systems and programming data acquisition. To support her research, she spent considerable time in the lab innovating and troubleshooting. “The time [spent in the lab] was invaluable to my learning how things work, and how to conduct meaningful, relevant research,” she said. Additionally, her conference presentations and experience with writing peer-reviewed journal articles helped establish her reputation in the chemical engineering field.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in water treatment engineering, Katie says, “I would encourage new employees and college students to develop experience building and testing novel water treatment systems.” For those who are just starting out in this field, Katie recommends focusing on a project and exploring all of its aspects to gain a thorough understanding of how these technologies work and how they are implemented in the field.

Outside of work, Katie’s life is just as interesting. Between 2011 and 2015, she and her husband designed and built their home on a 1.5 acre property in Golden, Colorado. They completed the engineering calculations themselves for the structural design, radiant in-floor heating, and passive solar heating. Due to the efficiency and uniqueness of the house project, their home has been featured in the Golden Solar Home Tour.

Katie is the “Team Mom” for her daughter’s competitive volleyball team, where she is responsible for logistics and food at tournaments, along with helping the coach with volleyball-related issues and emergencies. She serves as the liaison between the coach, club director, the Rocky Mountain Region of USA Volleyball, and other team parents. She also chaperones for the team when they travel out of state.

Katie is still very active at her alma mater, the Colorado School of Mines. She attends many sporting events and participates in various programs that encourage the pursuit of STEM fields, including events hosted by the Multi-Cultural Engineering Program and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To join the Reclamation team, check out our available job opportunities here:

Published on March 26, 2018