If you’d asked the 9th grade version of Tané Remington where she would end up in life, a career in STEM might have seemed out of reach. She failed her first chemistry exam junior year and struggled with basic concepts, despite seeming to grasp some of the more difficult ones.
Then, teacher Eugene Mizusawa made her a deal that would change her life’s trajectory: he promised her a passing grade if she joined robotics. Fifteen years later, Tané still likes to come to campus and play with robots, this time as a volunteer advisor to the current robotics team. And she doesn’t just inspire students with her knowledge. Stories of her circuitous path, which was paved with stones she collected at Athenian, tell of how she landed some of the most fascinating—and socially important—professions in the world.
“My department tried to understand how we might deflect asteroids that were coming toward the earth,” Tané mentioned casually when asked about her former role at Lawrence Livermore Labs. She went there as a postdoc after earning a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from UC San Diego. “I got to run simulations relating to asteroids with a range of attributes—rock, metal, bollides, etc.” It was Tané’s first professional job.
Following a two-and-a-half year stint in planetary defense, she was offered a full-time position at Lawrence Livermore, this time working in a nuclear forensics unit with adjacency to the Stockpile Responsiveness Program, an effort that fully exercises the capabilities of the US nuclear security enterprise. But after more than three years with the lab, an opportunity that felt supremely meaningful drew her to a new path.
“It just so happens that I’m obsessed with water,” Tané explained as she talked about Maelstrom Water, a high-tech desalination company of which Tané is a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer. “It comes from being Californian, and also being Turkish, as we had a lot of water shortages.”
Desalination refers to processes that remove the salt content from water. Reverse osmosis is the most well-known approach. But Maelstrom endeavors to use a different method: cavitation. By reaching the temperature of the sun in a matter of microseconds, it can change the properties of its targets. Though a working desalination solution is not yet ready, Maelstrom has confirmed other applications of its technology (e.g., waste water, medical waste, soil remediation, the worldwide oceanic and fresh water algae bloom) and has numerous patents pending.
Tané spent all of middle and upper school at Athenian, except for one year she spent abroad. She attributed her spirit of innovation and curiosity at least partially to her Athenian teachers. “When I was in middle school, Sven and Ted really taught me how to love learning.” Beyond traditional classroom fare, Focus Fridays and volunteer service provided opportunities for perspective.
“I think Athenian’s values had an enormous impact on the person I became. I gave up a tenured position for less money, no stability. It’s risky, but it keeps me up at night thinking about our future with water.” She also mentioned her daughter as a driving factor behind her decision to make a move. “When my daughter asks me when she’s older what I work on, I can tell her how proud I am to have taken on an issue like desalination and committed to it as part of my legacy.”