Ashley Thompson learned a love of cooking, baking and the ways in which chemistry affects foods from her grandmother. But a high school teacher at Stewart County High School in Dover, Tennessee, convinced Thompson she should pursue her interests by becoming the first member of her family to get a college degree.
At the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, which offered her the best scholarship, Thompson was given the chance to work at the BASF plant on Amnicola Highway while she was still in school. Six years after starting as an intern at BASF — and four years after she joined the company full time as a chemical engineer — Thompson was recognized this spring as an Emerging Leader in the industry through the National Association of Manufacturers' 2017 STEP Ahead Awards given to women engineers in manufacturing.
Thompson, 26, was one of only 30 women picked for the national award, which highlights women who work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at manufacturing plants and who help encourage and mentor more females to enter STEM-related professions.
"I was looking for most any kind of job while in college, but I quickly knew BASF would be a great company to work for," Thompson says. "I started here as an intern not really knowing what I was getting into and I have loved it ever since."
After graduation, she became a process engineer at BASF, helping to find ways to improve the manufacturing of synthetic latex for asphalt, can sealants, foam and other products. One of the projects she worked on may help save BASF more than $1 million.
A native of Dover, Tennessee, Thompson said she decided to relocate to Chattanooga while visiting the UTC campus for the first time in January, 1999. "I knew if I can love some place in the dead of winter, it would be a great place to live year around," she recalls.
Thompson is married to a mechanical engineer and this spring she gave birth to the couple's first child.