Breaking In | In 1984, Leugers joined a new area of research at Dow Chemical in fiber optic probe development and online spectroscopy and light scattering. “At that time Dow Chemical was really starting to investigate the use of fiber optics. They had a very large program to develop in situ and online technology. I was one of about two to three people that were investigating the use of fiber optics for online spectroscopy. It was a very exciting time.”
Breaking Through | Today, she is the only female scientist in the central research division. “To some extent, the scientist promotion is the glass ceiling at Dow,” she says. “There are very few women in these roles.”
No Role Models | Although not ideal, she’s not surprised she’s the lone female scientist. From her undergraduate to her post-doctoral work, Leugers never had a single female professor in her field. “There were so few women in science back then that I didn’t even think about it.”
Equal Treatment | Fortunately, her parents treated the girls and boys in the family the same. “They challenged us all to work hard and do our best,” she says.
Spreading the Word | “Whenever I’ve been asked to talk about my career and trying to be successful, what I try to emphasize is that you don’t want to climb fast and create the sense among your colleagues that you didn’t deserve it,” she says. “And so that’s what my message is really: Work hard, do the right things, become really, really good and don’t worry about breaking through that glass ceiling. It will happen if you focus on the right things and doing a lot of good work.”
The Daily Grind | Contrary to popular belief, Leugers doesn’t spend her day cooped up in a lab. “A lot of what we do is information gathering and then trying to benchmark against state-of-the-art technology and understand what we can do relative to other companies,” she says. Right now, for example, Leugers is exploring solar cells and nano technology. “I really like the diversity of projects I get to work on,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Well Regarded | Leugers has authored more than 175 proprietary technical articles for Dow, published 43 technical articles, book chapters and patents, and has received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including a cover article inChemical and Engineering News, the leading journal for the chemical industry.
All in the Family | Leuger’s husband also specializes in spectroscopy, which sometimes provides odd dinner conversation for their three children. “Sometimes we’ll say, ‘Have you ever seen that band, you know like 1,500 wave numbers?’ The children just roll their eyes.”