Maria Paz Ochoa, Ph.D.

Rising Technical Contributor Award

Maria Paz Ochoa, Ph.D., Rising Technical Contributor Award, Headshot

Maria Paz Ochoa, Ph.D.

The Dow Chemical Company

For advancing research in mathematical modeling of optimization and decomposition methods; and for effectively modeling theoretical solutions with practical application for industry challenges.

Maria Paz Ochoa, Ph.D., is a senior research specialist in process systems engineering in the engineering and process science department of The Dow Chemical Company’s core R&D organization, based in Lake Jackson, Texas. In this role, she applies novel mathematical approaches to challenging business problems. She is a member of the business turnaround optimization strategy team, focused on developing long-term turnaround plans, and recommendations for selecting their optimal frequency. For large chemical companies, turnarounds are a significant expense, and planning is a highly complex and integrated problem with a high number of degrees of freedom and different driving factors. Dr. Ochoa has proposed mathematical-based modeling to optimize long-term turnaround planning while accommodating supply chain, affordability, and business constraints.

Most recently, Dr. Ochoa has been leading a joint research effort between Dow and Carnegie Mellon University to minimize capital cost of reactors for polyol production by using mathematical optimization for reactor network designs. She is also actively involved in the development of mathematical-based modeling approaches to support decision-making processes for investment of resources to ensure Dow reaches its carbon-neutrality goals by 2050.

Dr. Ochoa received her B.S. and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Universidad Nacional del Sur (UNS) in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Her doctoral research focused on optimizing the production of bioethanol reactors and wastewater treatment plants using advanced mathematical approaches such as dynamic optimization. As part of her postgraduate research at Carnegie Mellon University and in collaborations with Eli Lilly and Company and Air Liquide, Dr. Ochoa developed novel research approaches to conduct optimization under uncertainty for a wide variety of applications ranging from pharmaceutical production processes to production scheduling.

She has published 16 papers in international journals and 17 publications in conference proceedings as first author and co-author. She is actively engaged as author and speaker at all major conferences in her field. Dr. Ochoa received best poster award at The Foundations of Computer-Aided Process Design (FOCAPD) Conference in 2019 and best presentation paper in the session “Advances in Optimization Under Uncertainty” at the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) annual meeting in 2018. She also serves as a peer reviewer for major publications, among them the journal Chemical Engineering Research and Design. She is a member of SWE, AIChE, and INFORMS.

Within her organization, Dr. Ochoa is a member of the local analytics chapter of Texas Operations site and the Hispanic and Latino Network, where she is actively engaged in applying and sharing knowledge in the analytics space, and promoting “one-team” mindset by organizing social events and team-building activities.

Outside work, Dr. Ochoa enjoys traveling and outdoor activities such as trekking and biking with her husband, Antonio, and her dog, Pepper. She also likes yoga and cooking for family and friends.