Martina Viti is a PhD student at the Technical University of Denmark at the Department of Environmental Engineering.
Martina has a BSc. degree in biology from the University of Florence, Italy. She built on her BSc. with a MSc in Nature Management from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and currently she is a PhD student at DTU Environmental Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark. Martina’s research is a part of a project called RECONECT. Her project revolves around Nature-Based Solutions, that is solutions based on natural processes aiming at solving societal challenges while improving human well-being and biodiversity. A huge part of Martina’s PhD is focused on combatting climate change. Climate change in Europe will bring increased precipitations, more frequent droughts and increasing sea levels. Therefore, the main goal of her project is to find and test adaptation strategies that will protect vulnerable sites from those risks and at the same time will benefit people and biodiversity. Martina contributes to the project by trying and quantifying how much these strategies do in fact benefit people (through increased sense of security, recreational opportunities, etc.). The findings from Martina’s project will help increase the value we give to these adaptation strategies and will contribute to make them more popular. Her project is a testament of how interdisciplinary the STEM field can be. As Martina has a background in Biology/Ecology, but still, she is working within Social Sciences. Someone with a background similar to Martina’s could think of becoming an environmental consultant, or working on EU projects or even joining NGOs and/or international organisations.
Martina describes herself as always being very curious and interested in finding out about the “why” behind things. During Martina’s second last year in high school, Martina went to study abroad in Australia. This gave her the experience of a lifetime and especially living in a different environment that was so different from what she was used to really sparked her interest in the natural world. That is when she started looking into the various options for a Bachelor’s in the field of Natural Sciences. But of course, none of this would be possible, if Martina did not have the right mentors in her life to look up to. Martina considers her mother the most important inspiration in her life. After entering the “STEM world”, Martina got introduced to many amazing women, both as colleagues and mentors. But still her mum remained her truest inspiration and most important mentor. In fact, Martina shares that her mum has always been very interested in STEM. “She herself does not work in a STEM field, but she has always been very passionate about math, and very good at it too.” Martina grew up with her mother always being very vocal about how much she loved mathematics and especially logic problems. Her mother is also really good in these subjects (which Martina benefitted from when it came to maths homework). Martina’s mother is the CEO of a company, so growing up she never doubted that women can do very well in scientific subjects, or that they can be successful leaders.
STEM to Martina is curiosity, moving forward and lots of teamwork. STEM is rising up to the challenge and trying to make a change for the better, asking questions to better understand our world and strive for improvement. Martina’s definition of STEM builds upon that STEM is all about taking actions and making a difference no matter how small or big.
There are some changes that Martina thinks would benefit the women in STEM. Martina would like to note that these 3 suggestions are purely based on what she would improve, and she is suggesting these from her personal experience so far. Martina believes that there are many impactful improvements (wage gaps, maternity leaves), but she would like to focus on:
1) Strengthening the cohesion and support between women in STEM, whether it’s about pointing out common struggles or sharing achievements
2) Provide at least 1 female supervisor or some other mentor figure
3) As a student, have some seminars regarding the array of possibility in STEM fields
Furthermore, Martina believes that female representation is a relevant issue, female representation in STEM is a theme that has been widely addressed and in which we have made steady progress. She believes that a further step that could be made to encourage young girls to join the STEM fields is to combat some old stereotypes on what it means to work in STEM and actually show the new generations the diversity of STEM. Martina thinks that often people have a very biased conception of what it means working in STEM fields: it’s not social, a lot of work on the computer, very competitive, very logic-driven, cold, and so on. These are characteristics that girls are taught do not “belong” to them and this could discourage them from giving it a chance. Of course a part of this issue is that we should stop teaching kids that there are “girl” or “boy” feelings and inclinations. But it’s also important to show that work in STEM fields can be very far from that stereotype in many many cases! An important starting point is showing young girls the variety of exciting possibilities that exist. This will surely encourage them to at least consider pursuing a STEM path.
Lastly, here are Martina’s closing words of encouragement for young girls who want to join a STEM field:
“Talent and brilliance are important factors, but don’t underestimate your passion! If you believe in what you are doing, then there are not so many obstacles that you won’t be able to overcome.”
You can contact Martina Viti on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/martina-viti-94240617a/
I thank Martina Viti for taking part in this project and answering all the questions in a very informative manner. I hope, your experience and STEM story will inspire a young girl to join a STEM field and excel just like you have.