University of Louisville Magazine

WINTER-SPRING 2018

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

Issue link: https://louisville.epubxp.com/i/956106

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 44 of 75

43 WINTER/SPRING 2018 hen Katherine O'Nan was in high school in Ashland, she was taking all science, math and engineering classes. She was frequently the only female in the class, and she couldn't understand why. Five years later, through dozens of Speed School courses, three internships and plenty of discussion with her fellow female Speed School students, she knows why and she has some ideas of how to fix it. The May graduate, who will receive a masters of chemical engineering degree, says young women need to see that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers can be fun. They also need more female role models. O'Nan was lucky in that regard. She interned at Michter's under Wilson and Heilmann. "Girls have to see themselves in the indus- try in which they want to work. Up until recently, there were only male master dis- tillers in the industry," O'Nan said. "I have been very fortunate to work alongside strong women in the bourbon industry: Two prominent roles at Michter's ... are both filled by females." When O'Nan first thought about an engi- neering career, she envisioned herself work- ing in the petroleum industry (she interned twice at Marathon Petroleum). But her inter- est in distilling, which started with her craft- beer enthusiast father, sparked her curiosity. and vodkas. Next year, another bourbon will be ready. The Nethery family uses an heirloom corn called "Bloody Butcher" that they grow themselves on their farm. "I grew up here and was always surrounded by bourbon, but to have our own distill- ery and to distill bourbon was not a thought that I had when I was going to school," Neth- ery said. "My vision was to go into the petro- leum industry, the chemical industry, and work those kinds of things. And that's what I did. And then it ... came full circle back to my engineering, back to bourbon." Like her fellow alums, Nethery talks about the finer points of distillation in great detail. There's corn and rye and barley and wheat. There are cookers and agitators and pot stills and shelves and coils and valves and direct steam injection. There are starches and enzymes and yeast and sugars. She watches it all, with the help of her family and computers. "We are about making old fashioned new. Corn is old fashioned. Moonshine is traditionally done. But we want quality to be consistent, so we also have new, like a com- puter system that is programmed to make sure valves open when they are supposed to open, close when supposed to close and that temperatures are correct," she said. Nethery is frequently asked what it is like being a woman in the chemical industry and, now, in the bourbon industry. "I never thought about it a whole lot," she said. "You know, I always wanted to do the job and do it with excellence." O'Nan at UofL's J.B. Speed School of Engineering. A Brown Fellowship in hand, she traveled to Scotland, then to Canada, to see how they made their whiskeys. "I knew chemical engineering could mesh well with the distilling industry," she told her hometown newspaper, The Independent, for a feature it published about her. "The focus is more on full-scale production than being a chemist in a lab." Then O'Nan, like Nethery, took the Moon- shine University course, which led her to an internship at Michter's. At Michter's, she "was able to learn a lot about whiskey fil- tration processes, how a distillery and its equipment operate and concepts about how whiskey ages in the barrel. My time at Mich- ter's taught me just how many people it takes to get from that grain to a quality bottle on the shelf." She credits the Speed School's emphasis on practical learning through co-ops with giving her the "deeper understanding" of her coursework that she needed to feel confident pursuing her dream career in distilling. O'Nan is counting on the bourbon industry needing more and more people as she makes her future plans. Especially more female chemical engineers. "It is my hope that these women by whom I have been inspired — and even myself when I get the opportunity to be out in the work- force — will continue to lead by example and show young girls that they can do this work, too." KATHERINE O'NAN, Speed School Class of 2018 The Up and comer

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of University of Louisville Magazine - WINTER-SPRING 2018