Juliana for non-scientists.

Juliana for non-scientists.

From Medellín to the Czech Republic doing science.

My name is Juliana Arbelaez Gaviria, and I was born in Medellin, Colombia. Medellín is famous for drug trafficking, and although we have been trying for 30 years to overcome the ghosts of narcoculture, there is still a lot of work ahead and more if you are a scientist.

Science has always captivated me since school; I was very passionate about understanding all the phenomena observed in the sky and the ecosystems. However, during my childhood and adolescence, I was an athlete for the Colombian artistic swimming team, and I didn’t have much free time for my scientific curiosity.

However, when I had to decide what to study in the university, engineering was the answer to my passion for physics, natural sciences, and mathematics. I studied Petroleum Engineering at the Faculty of Mines of the Universidad Nacional of Colombia.

My favorite part of my undergraduate degree was the mathematical models to understand how natural resources such as oil or water are distributed on our planet, how they flow, and how they change over time. These models have allowed us to supply our cities with the energy and water necessary to develop everyday activities such as eating or brushing our teeth.

Today, more than ever in our history, we live with great uncertainty about the future due to climate change and technological advancement. We do not know if our social and economic systems are prepared for unexpected extreme weather events (floods, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). However, mathematical models are the tools that allow us to evaluate the future according to what we already live and are living. That is why I have focused my career on assessing climate change impacts on water distribution in our ecosystems and cities. I am using global models that include socio-economic and biophysical factors for evaluating adaptation and mitigation plans of water systems to guarantee the supply of food, energy, and ecosystem services.

This path brought me to the Czech Republic, where I did my master’s degree in environmental modeling. I am doing my Ph.D. in applied bio-climatology as a researcher at the Czech Academy of Sciences and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. My scientific career has been why I have also fulfilled many personal dreams. It has opened opportunities for me to meet incredible places and people, especially when I come from a country where women find many barriers to their full professional and personal development.

Science has been the place where I have been able to know my potential, not only as a researcher and a woman but as an active agent of change on this planet. However, the scientific community is not indifferent to the social processes that occur in other fields on women’s equality and marginalized communities. Women scientists also face considerable inequalities in terms of salaries, representativeness, and lack of decision-making power.

My short-term goal is to promote diversity and inclusiveness in the scientific community by increasing women’s visibility and engagement, building up capacities where diversity is essential for research quality and problem-solving. In the long- term, I would like to contribute to women’s placement in leadership and management positions in Science by fostering a sense of community,  exchanging experiences, and cooperating scientifically towards having more transformational leaders.