What is your current Job Title or Role?
Lecturer in Engineering Geology.
What advice would you have for young women who are interested in a STEM career or job?
It is amazing to discover how things and nature work, so if you like it, just go for it! I have to say, it probably won't be easy but we are more and more there to support you and I am sure we can really make a change if we stick together and sponsor each other!
How did you get to where you are today?
Since I was a child it was clear to me I was going to work in STEM as maths, science, physics, and informatics were my favourite subject at school. When I grow up I became more and more interested in sustainable development and the environment so I choose geotechnical/environmental engineer at the undergrad and graduate level and then I did a Master of Advanced studies to work in NGOs in natural disaster prevention in developing countries. What brought me to Academia was a visit I did to a friend who was doing a PhD in Zurich in hydraulic engineering. I was amazed by what she was doing and the experiments she was carrying out in the laboratory and this was when I realized I wanted to do research to improve our understanding of natural hazardous processes to improve risk assessment. Working in an engineer environment has not always been easy and willing to become a Professor and having a family (I have 2 kids) at the same time is really challenging, but I have always liked challenges; we only have one life, we better make it as crazy and amazing as possible and enjoy every single bit of it.
What do you do on a daily basis in your work?
I do research on landslide propagation and volcanic ash dispersal, I carry out experiments in the lab to better understand the processes involved in these two phenomena and to improve the hazard assessment related to them. I also run simulations trying to reproduce past events and forecast future ones. I also go in the field to look at landslide deposits or volcanic eruptions to understand them better. I also teach natural hazards and engineering geology at the University of Plymouth and I supervise undergraduate and graduate students in their dissertation and PhD projects. I also do outreach and I am involved in different association promoting women in STEM. Then there is also the administrative side of an academic job which I like, but it is less exciting than the research and teaching part. I also need to review papers, be part of PhD committees, participate to conference, write book chapters and funding proposal, do training in teaching and research, etc. Working in Academia you have a lot of different things to do and that's one thing that I really like!
Who or what inspired you to get into STEM?
My mother with her example and her support, her energy and strength. I still remember her when she was finishing her studies when I was a child, having 3 kids and a full time job, revising during the night and taking care of everything at home. My father with his example and his support, with his passion for his work and engineer and science and his infinity curiosity and culture. He just knows everything and if he does not, he looks everywhere to find an answer. My grandfather Salvatore, he was just my biggest fan! And then there was this excitement and happiness when I discovered new things or I could solve an equation or I could make something work even when nobody else could (like when our apartment inter-phone got broken when I was a teenager, after the electrician came and could not repair it, I tried and tried and tried using logic and what I knew from school and I made it work!).
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Its variety and the daily challenges but I think that above all, I love the fact that I learn at least one new thing every single day of my life. This is amazing. It happens sometime that I am exhausted, after days and nights working for a research proposal or for marking student exams and I think how hard it is to be there for my kids and my husband, enjoying fully the time with them and to keep up with all the work and the competition in this field, but then I think about all the new things I have learned and all the wonders that are still left out there to discover and this keeps me going!
What do you like to do outside work?
Playing with my kids, reading them a book or creating new stories. I particularly like to reinvent the classic fairy tales transforming princesses in strong powerful women who do not need a prince charming but they save the world with their super STEM powers! (Snow White is a structural engineer/architect who designed and build a wonderful super home for the poor dwarves). I also love travelling and discovering new places all around the world but also here in the surroundings. One of our favourite thing as a family is going for a walk along the beach in Devon or Cornwall or in a forest in Dartmoor or in a National Trust sites. After pregnancy, an injury and the big move to the UK, I am also happily slowly going back to running and yoga practicing. I also love going to the theatre, I do not do it very often but now I can go with my daughter and she loves it as well (how it could be different? after all she was named after the main role of a play I saw when I was 11, a woman in the 19th century who left her wealthy husband and her doll house to find her freedom, her independence and look after herself!)