My stay at Aquafin, in Belgium, is sadly coming to an end. Today I look back and evaluate what I have achieved this year. I think the result is quite positive! I could develop and calibrate from scratch a Microcontaminant Fate and Transport model that estimates the concentrations of diclofenac in the Demer river basin for a particular month.
In my meagre 29 years (almost) of life, I have moved house 9 times. That is 9 too many if you ask me. I hate it, with passion. But there is one little detail that sets this last time apart: it is my first time moving back to the same city in a foreign country.
Last week my Facebook feed was filled with links reporting on the findings of a recent study listing four major actions that is impacting your CO2 footprint. The study got a lot of attention because the most influential one, far surpassing not having a car, skipping a cross-Atlantic flight and keeping a vegetarian diet, was the impact of having one child less, which suddenly took life-style choices for reducing your environmental impact to a new level. To choose bike before car and veggies before beef have a positive impact not only on the environment but also for your own health and economy so they should be easy ones. Having a child is somehow more deeply rooted in the human mind.
Whomsoever works in the field of wastewater treatment, knows how important and strategic it is the Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) processes. And, most likely, people dwelling in this wastewater environment, have heard –at least once- about the University of Cape Town (UCT) process.
When I moved to Antwerp in Belgium I embraced cycling, that very Belgian way to commute. Despite the occasional joint pain or getting wet, it is a great experience to cycle to work every day. Biking is a great way to move around fast, reduce your carbon emissions, help the community and enjoy the exercise outside while you are at it. I hope my Belgian bicycle story will show why cycling is a good alternative to the car and bus. And why more countries in the European Union should start investing into bike paths instead of three-lane residential roads.
Lately, my blog entries have been quite long. However this one has to be rather short, as I am about to move back to Bristol in a couple of days, and the moving house process is taking all my energy. Next blog entry will probably be about the stress of moving house to another country, all by yourself, in the middle of a PhD. Although to be honest, other researchers in this project have it much worse than me. Anyway, right now I feel a pressing need to write about my first experience with water scarcity.
One month for a research stay is not a long period. Therefore, before starting this secondment at Waterschap de Dommel, we decided that I was not going to build a new model from scratch or start new simulations. Instead, I was going to take advantage of this stay to receive feedback of my work by giving seminars and organizing meetings with relevant researchers and policy advisors. Waterschap de Dommel is a River Basin Authority in the Netherlands and I am developing a Decision Support System for River Basin Authorities to help them select measures to reduce pharmaceuticals in their rivers. Therefore, the secondment was actually well planned and made a lot of sense for my individual research project.
It was close to midnight when I stumbled into my hotel room in downtown Palermo. The day had been packed with scientific lectures followed by dinner and drinks with colleagues and newfound friends and I was happy to finally find a quiet moment to open my computer and re-read the email I had just scrolled through on my phone during a coffee break during the day. Deciphering the text on my broken iPhone screen had shot sparkles of excitement through me even stronger than the ones induced by the concentrated Italian coffee I balanced in my other hand, but I put the phone away as I wanted to read the email through in peace in order to fully enjoy the significance of the following lines:
Every day we meet people and talk to them. And more then often we don’t only have a simple chat. We try to explain, justify, challenge or teach what is important to us. At this point, a bunch of ideas becomes an argument and a public speech which explains your position. This skill is so important for our society. Yet more than often it is lacking even in seemingly trained professionals. So I say, it’s time to get rid of eye-watering slides and weak speeches and start to present well.