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Photo Credit - Universidad del Valle de Guatemala

Cristina Dominguez

Scientific Assistant

ETH Zurich

And - Doctoral Researcher

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You have the capacity to improve people's lives and to change the world.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a scientist from ETH Zurich and Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories of Material Science and Technology) working in the fields of sustainable development, energy, and environment. Currently, I am developing a geospatial model based on publicly available data to estimate the electricity needs of rural households in developing countries; this will support the planning and design of clean energy access projects and strategies. I validate the results using real electricity consumption data collected from mini-grids and from the deployment of field studies in the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya), South Asia (Pakistan), and Latin America (Guatemala). My research aims at supporting the sustainable development goal (SDG) No. 7, dedicated to ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by the year 2030.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

My interest in the field of sustainable energy started during my final year of Civil Engineering. For my graduation project, a group of colleagues and I developed a prototype that could generate electricity from the ocean’s waves from the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. In our estimations, we found that this prototype could have the potential to generate enough electricity to supply to over 400 households located near the coast. This was the moment when I realized that I wanted to specialize and study a master on this field, having in mind the vast natural resources and renewable energy potential that my country has. During this year, I also volunteered in multiple programs that support the development of rural communities, and I had the opportunity of getting to know them and to notice their lack access to basic services, such as water and electricity. I knew from there that I was destined to apply my knowledge to improve the quality of life in rural settlements, supporting their development in a more sustainable way.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

I have faced multiple challenges during my career and personal life. However, I think that my strongest qualities are to be focused and perseverant on my goals and who I want to become. Being a woman in STEM sometimes can be a hurdle, especially when we are developing our careers in environments in which we are the only woman in the room. However, I have always tried to see this as an opportunity to demonstrate my capacities, and this motivates me even more.

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

When I was 11 years old, I wrote a letter to my ‘future me’. Among many of my childhood dreams, I wrote that I wanted to become someone that could do something good for the world; I wrote as well that I wanted to be awarded with a scholarship that could support my studies abroad. However, by that time I thought I was dreaming, and it seemed impossible. I would like that my younger me would have known that she was actually not dreaming, she was literally writing what her future was going to look like. I was awarded with a full scholarship to perform my master studies in Spain and France. I worked as a researcher to accelerate the energy transition in three European cities, and now I am performing my doctoral studies in Switzerland aiming at supporting clean energy access solutions in rural areas of developing countries to improve their quality of life. I even was awarded with a grant for working on a project in Guatemala with Swiss and local researchers, enabling an exchange of knowledge and establishing new links of research cooperation.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I love that I can propose and work on new ideas that can be applied to solve from very case-specific to even global problems. I love the exchange of knowledge, learning everyday a new thing, acting out of curiosity, asking myself what challenges could my research overcome, now and in the future. Above all, I love that my career and work can serve of reference to other girls that want to work in STEM, and that it can be an inspiration to reach their goals.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

When you are writing down your goals you are not dreaming, you are writing what your future is going to look like. You have the capacity to improve people's life and to change the world.

INSPIRATION

You will not change the world if you just look at it.