Stories of Our Scholars: Dr Marisa Ioppolo-Armanios

Then and Now Collage

Marisa at the 1991 MERIWA scholarship presentation ceremony and Marisa today as Alcoa’s Program Manager in Environmental and Process Chemistry Technology.

In 1991, Marisa won the MRIWA (formerly MERIWA) scholarship for her PhD project ‘The Occurrence and Origins of Some Alkylphenols in Crude Oils’. She became the second woman to complete a PhD in the Chemistry Department at Curtin University, amongst her almost entirely male counterparts and was awarded the top prize in Petroleum Organic Geochemistry at an esteemed international conference for her work.

Growing up in a first-generation immigrant family, Marisa constantly challenged both societal expectation and the expectation her family set for her. From a young age, Marisa was determined that she wanted to pursue a university education in science, drastically different to the expectation that her family had of her becoming a hairdresser.

After the completion of her PhD, Marisa began her career in alumina refining at Alcoa’s Alumina Centre of Excellence (COE). Nowadays she remains at Alcoa and is a Program Manager in Environmental and Process Chemistry Technology, being the first female to adopt this role.

Marisa is an acclaimed expert in environmental (air and water quality) and process chemicals. She is responsible for managing and developing the Environmental Technology program for Alcoa’s global research and development hub; The Refining Centre of Excellence (COE), which is based at the Kwinana Alumina Refinery.

Among her peers, she is highly regarded as a transformational leader with astounding capability. Within 12 months of taking the Program Manager role, Marisa and her team have demonstrated significant savings and growth potential delivering environment and process related benefits. Marisa’s innovation and work ethic provided Alcoa with the insight to understand that environmental technology is critical for business growth.

Marisa is passionate about encouraging other women to find a career in the STEM industries. She has volunteered to mentor six girls through the Chanel Charter Memorial Fund and she supported the WIMWA (Woman in Mining and Resources Western Australia) booth in 2016. Marisa has also sat in on the Women in Operation Innovation Panel in 2017.

Outside of work, Marisa conducts her own jewellery business; MaxX Jewellery, where she has employed several stay-at-home mums with the intention of empowering them to re-enter the workforce. Her jewellery is stocked in a few high-end designer boutiques across Perth. Marisa has three children, aged 19, 17 and 11, and has enjoyed visiting their respective schools over the years to present at Science Week.

Read more about all scholarships offered by MRIWA here.