Photo of Brandi Mitchell, Analytical Chemist

Meet Our Pro

Brandi Mitchell

Analytical Chemist

As the construction of its new polyethylene plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania continues, Shell Polymers has been hiring a team of industry experts, aka Polymer Pioneers and Polymer Pros, with proven track records in polymers. In this article, we talked to Analytical Chemist Brandi Mitchell to learn about her research and laboratory management experience and the work she’ll be doing in Shell Polymers’ Quality Control Lab.

From OLED to PP to PE

Brandi comes to Shell Polymers as an experienced new hire who started in March 2020. With a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in inorganic chemistry, Brandi began her career working with OLEDs.

“Working with liquids and gasses that aren’t much on their own and mixing them to become polymers was truly amazing,” Brandi said.

The chemistry was exciting, and her career took her to other polymer fields like polypropylene. It was there that Brandi learned about the applications of plastics and how integral this material is in our lives. One of Brandi’s biggest highlights was seeing an opportunity to make a change in the catalyst being used on products. Running with the project, she ended up getting three patents out of the work through her own interest and effort.

It was around that time that buzz about Shell Polymers’ entrance into the polyethylene industry began. Since Brandi was in Pennsylvania, where Shell Polymers is building its new plant, her excitement grew.

"When I heard about Shell Polymers, I was really interested. The idea of building something from the ground up was exciting.”

Brandi Mitchell

Shell Polymers was an exciting opportunity for Brandi because it provided a chance to build from the ground floor, making this uniquely her creation. It also signified that Brandi could try new things and work across different fields. Previously, Brandi’s work exclusively focused on end-use polypropylene products. With Shell Polymers, Brandi gets to work on every portion of the plant, from water treatment to the ethylene cracker, and eventually polymer production when the plant is operational.

The Positives of Polymers

While Brandi is new to Shell Polymers, she is certainly not new to the perception people have of plastics. Well aware of how people focus on the negatives, Brandi tries to highlight the positives that plastics bring to millions of people every day. The pushback she gets from family and friends about her field is not atypical, but educating people on plastics' positives and the work done to make them more sustainable is vital to Brandi.

“It’s easy to focus on the negatives but we have to highlight the positives of plastics too. Like how the lightweighting of cars helps with fuel efficiency and how plastics help with food preservation, significantly decreasing food waste.”

These positives include making plastics more recyclable through the pyrolysis process and making better, more superior products out of recycled plastics.Brandi knows there’s work to be done but highlighting successes along the way is a big first step.

Progress for Women in Plastics

The progress in the plastic industry has to do with more than just sustainability. Brandi notes that a lot of work is being done around diversity and inclusion as companies like Shell Polymers strive to bring diverse voices to the table.

“It’s new to talk about so, it has to be brought up. People have to talk about it first, and then it has to get put into practice. It’s a process,” Brandi says.

Brandi sees hope in the new generation coming into the field as many of them have grown up with diversity and inclusion aspects in their schools and careers. She believes that those new employees will advocate for change and continue to push the industry forward.

“You can see and feel the differences in the workplace today,” Brandi says.

It can be easy to keep your head down, Brandi notes, but she encourages the next generation of women to stand up and make their voices heard. With people pushing for inclusion, Brandi wants everyone to have a seat at the table so that more people get the opportunity to speak up.

“When that’s the atmosphere you’re in, a more inclusive environment, everyone gets more opportunities to speak up and be heard.”

Four Pieces of Advice from Brandi to the Next-Generation of Polymer Professionals

  • Speak Up

    When you’re the only woman in the room and you speak up, you may not get listened to but you have to keep speaking up and demanding inclusion.

  • Push For Inclusion

    With diversity and inclusion being so important, people need to push for their seat at the table.

  • Seize Every Opportunity

    Be open to every opportunity that comes your way. That’s how you advance in your career and work with people that push and challenge you. It’s how you grow.

  • Believe in Yourself

    If someone is giving you an opportunity then it’s because they believe you can do it. Believe in yourself just as much and know that you can get the job done.