the view from heti

Houston organization strives for equity for energy transition for young women in STEM

Despite making up more than 57 percent of the workforce, women are still significantly outnumbered by men in STEM professions. The SUPERGirls Shine Foundation is hoping to change that in Houston and beyond. Photo via

STEM occupations account for nearly 7 percent of all U.S. occupations, however, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, women make up only 27 percent of STEM workers. Studies continue to show that between the ages 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30 percent and by the time they reach middle school, they completely lack confidence and self-esteem to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Loretta Williams Gurnell is working to change the narrative for Houston students.

In 2016, Gurnell established SUPERGirls Shine Foundation, which is a Houston-based nonprofit organization that is focused on providing underserved girls with the opportunity and resources to succeed in STEM. By providing a strong STEM foundation, the organization equips girls with the tools to excel in professions that traditionally have low female and diverse representation.

In addition, the organization focuses on closing the gender gap in STEM, noting that their goal is to increase the number of girls in STEM classes, degrees and careers by 25 percent by the year 2025. Despite making up more than 57 percent of the workforce, women are still significantly outnumbered by men in STEM professions.

On a yearly basis, SUPERGirls Shine Foundation awards graduating high school seniors and collegiate ambassadors up to $10,000 dollars to close the financial gaps for college degrees. The foundation offers internships for college students and recent graduates to bring awareness, access and equity for more women and girls from underserved communities in STEM, innovation and leadership initiatives.

Through their 40/40 Mentorship Program, the foundation matches high-level industry leaders to grades 8th – 12th to provide skill-building and networking opportunities. The SUPERGirls Collegiate Ambassador Membership Program serves as a network for college students and recent graduates seeking community, careers and access to industry experts and mentors in STEM.

Learn more about Greentown Labs startup SUPERGirls Shine Foundation and how the organization is providing underserved girls with the opportunity and resources to succeed in STEM.


This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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