Meet Dr. Kate Hadley Baker

Carol Peters ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

Profile: Fall 2009 BP Vann Visiting Fellow

Kate Baker

“I seek ways to strengthen the BP-Princeton relations, especially outside of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, which I think is already well cared for. There are many Princeton programs that Potentially inform BP’s thinking …”

— Kate Hadley Baker

Kate Hadley Baker, BP Vann Visiting Fellow, is in residence at PEI for the fall 2009 semester. A native of Texas, she is Director, Well Planning and Geotechnical Operations at BP.

Dr. Baker’s current research interests include: special projects at the intersection of drilling and subsurface characterization, reducing geosciencerelated drilling non-productive time, leading the well planning and geotechnical network, and promoting organizational capability of the component communities and take-up of standardized technical practices to reduce major accident risk associated with geoscience-led exploration and production activities.

PEI News asked Dr. Baker what inspired her to come to Princeton, the goals she has set for herself while here, and the message she hopes to convey to students.

As Baker explains, “A Princeton Ph.D. in Geology, James D. Hedberg, came to teach petroleum geology for a semester at my alma mater, MIT, when I was in my final year of graduate studies. He was on loan from what was then Esso Exploration Company. His course opened my eyes to a fascinating set of technical challenges to which I had previously had no exposure and out of which I have made a great career. It’s payback time.

“Teaching is only one aspect of the Vann Fellowship opportunity, albeit a significant means of connecting to campus life. I seek ways to strengthen the BP-Princeton relationship, especially outside of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative(CMI), which I think is already well cared for. There are many Princeton programs that potentially inform BP’s thinking — e.g. STEP (Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy), and Oil, Energy and the Middle East, as well as many ad hoc opportunities. The oil patch also knows a few things, so I seek to make that knowledge body more accessible to Princeton faculty. Finally, I hope to build on the base laid by Ian Vann (former Vann Fellow), so that subsequent BP Fellows can be even more productive than we two.

“It’s unlikely that a Princeton student would choose to investigate a career in the oil business based on the experience of a single course, but I hope that by presenting the subject matter of petroleum engineering, even in a very cursory way, the students who get that exposure will become a more informed electorate. They will have a better idea of what is physically possible and what is not with reference to the oil and gas pieces of the energy pie. They can interpret posturing on all sides of an issue mindful of the underlying science and engineering. As Jefferson said: ‘I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.’”

About BP Vann Visiting Fellows

BP Vann Visiting Fellows is named as a tribute to BP’s most renowned exploration scientist, Ian Vann. The BP-Vann Visiting Fellows Program gives BP’s most talented and fast-rising executives the opportunity to explore the frontiers of knowledge in science, engineering, and public policy while tapping into the vast resources of Princeton University. The program was funded in 2006 with a $1.2 million gift to PEI from BP.

While at Princeton, visiting fellows have the opportunity to work closely with distinguished Princeton scholars and researchers, as well as Princeton undergraduate and graduate students. The program opens the door for an on-going exchange and future collaboration in areas of common interest.

The program greatly enriches discussions of complex energy and environment-related issues cutting across multiple disciplines.

In addition, the BP-Vann Visiting Fellows Program expands on BP’s commitment, along with that of Ford, since 2000 to support the Carbon Mitigation Initiative program at Princeton. CMI faculty and research affiliates are addressing global climate change and developing low-carbon energy sources.

The first Vann visiting fellow was Ian R. Vann, who was in residence at PEI during the winter of 2007 and 2008.