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Andrea Barrientos

Student

The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center

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Feel free to experience several fields and interests.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I'm a civil engineer with scientific aspirations. Since the early years of my undergraduate, I developed a profound interest in water management. In 2016 I started, as a member of the board of directors of the Civil Engineering Students Association, a research project of Contreras River. The project allowed students to implement theoretical concepts of hydrology in real and current situations.

In 2018 a former professor and I formed a multidisciplinary group (students, engineers, chemists, biologists, biochemists, anthropologists) to start a baseline study of La Campana River (an urban river located in the center of Guatemala City that has become a sewage stream due to direct wastewater discharge). The objective of the project was to characterize La Campana River micro- basin using morphometric and quality parameters.

In 2019 I led the project of a master plan for the recovery of La Campana River in a non- governmental organization (NGO). The project seeks to establish strategies for future water management and to identify allies such as government institutions, civil society, and academic institutions.

Currently, I'm studying my master's degree in Integrated Water Management at The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica.

I see myself in the nearby future as a scientist collaborating with government entities, private sector, NGOs, and other organizations proposing projects, strategies, and policies to achieve well-managed hydric resources that allow the improvement of life quality for Guatemalans, the reduction of climate change impacts and the promotion of sustainable development.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I have confirmed from previous experiences that water and sustainable development are interrelated. The appropriate management of water is a pre-condition of sustainable development. Even though this isn’t the case of Guatemala. Guatemala exerts different pressures on water resources such as the expansion of the urban area and population growth, the loss of forest cover, and the lack of regulations. The main impacts on the water resource are pollution and the decrease in the water supply (there is a continuous drop in the water tables). Especially in the metropolitan region of Guatemala, groundwater importance has been increasing since the majority of surface water is polluted. The current demand for groundwater threatens Guatemala’s sustainability.

Guatemala needs professionals passionate about water management. This is why I chose this path, as it is my passion.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

I did face some roadblocks over the way, but the most important is to keep going, with the correct mindset, having clear what your dreams and goals are. I didn't quit and keep trying until I met my goal. Everything is possible!

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

When I look at female scientists working in water management at NGO's, governments, and research centers, I wish younger me would know there is the possibility to become a scientist in a developing country. I did have to struggle to find my path and took me more time, but eventually, I found my passion. So my advice would be "don't worry, keep looking for the right opportunity. Keep trying, don't give up."

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I love working in STEM because I firmly believe that through science we can transform realities, influence our environment, and have a positive impact on our society to accomplish sustainable development.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Don't worry, keep looking for the right opportunity. Feel free to experience several fields and interests. Keep trying, don't give up!


Also, look for role models that can guide you in your scientific career. There is a large community of females working in STEM, that is continually growing.

INSPIRATION

There are lots of role models, experiences, and anecdotes that have inspired me and continue to inspire me. But one of them is this episode of "Meena" (a film series created by UNICEF to celebrate the decade of the girl) that distills several key messages about the relationship between water and sanitation and health:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXzs-9SNUC4