As a chemical engineer, Daniela Blanco has a very analytical mind. There’s no room for emotion.
“A result is a result and feelings don’t come into play,” Blanco told Remezcla during an interview last week to talk about Own the Room, a new National Geographic and Disney+ documentary she is featured in.
It wasn’t until she competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) that Blanco realized that her own story was just as important as the work she was doing.
“I was shocked at how much they wanted to know not about what I do but why I do it,” Blanco said. “I started thinking about my own story and what brought me here and why I don’t want to give up. I learned a lesson that our stories are very powerful.”
Own the Room follows Blanco and four other students as they get ready to compete at GSEA. Without getting too technical, Blanco makes it to the national competition by developing a technology that creates synthetic chemicals through solar energy.
Although she competed at GSEA as a New York University Ph.D. student, her work began while studying chemical engineering at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela, where she is originally from. As the political unrest grew in the country, Blanco realized continuing her education there was not sustainable.
“There would be strikes where we couldn’t even get to class,” Blanco said. “We all kept hoping that it would get better, so we wouldn’t have to leave everything and everyone we love.”
Blanco moved to the United States in January 2017 to study at NYU. Along with the language barrier (what’s Spanish for “catalytic combustion analyzers” anyway?), she faced many challenges, including having to cope with the fact that her mother had to stay back in Venezuela.
“It’s weird because as an immigrant, our bodies are here but our minds are there,” Blanco said. “I didn’t just miss my mom because I couldn’t see her every day. I really wanted her to be close just so I knew that she was safe.”
Today, Blanco is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Sunthetics, a company with a mission to create innovative processes to produce chemicals while significantly reducing carbon emissions, energy, and raw material usage. She hopes when people see Own the Room that they understand that everyone’s dreams are different and that you should never give up on them no matter what others tell you.
“A lot of people told me that I was trying something that was impossible, and that I wouldn’t be able to change the chemical industry,” Blanco said. “They told me that my dream was too big. But even if people think that my dream is crazy, I am not giving up. I’m not giving up because it’s meaningful to me.”
Own the Room premieres on Disney+ March 12.