we4DRR members in focus: Roxana Ciurean
On May 31st the second edition of the webinar series we4DRR members in focus was held online. Roxana Ciurean from the British Geological Survey gave insights about her career, research topics and her personal views on work and life.
Roxana is a Geohazard Scientist in the Shallow Geohazards & Earth Observation capability within the Multi-hazards and Resilience challenge area at the British Geological Survey (BGS) and has more than eight years experience in disaster risk management research. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Master’s Degrees in Environmental Geological Engineering at the University of Bucharest and Environmental Geology and Geohazards at the University of Oslo. She then was a Marie Curie Fellow within the CHANGES ITN Project and based at the University of Vienna for four years. Within the CHANGES ITN network Roxana worked on developing a methodological framework for vulnerability and loss assessment to hydrometeorological hazards. During this time, she held a research fellowship at the University of Lausanne and after finishing her PhD briefly worked for the European Commission as an external expert. In 2018 Roxana moved to the United Kingdom to start her current position at the British Geological Survey.
- As a child I wanted to become: a cop.
- The three most important things on my office desk are: cookies, a pen and my charger.
- My perfect work day starts with: the sun (unfortunately there aren't many sunny mornings in the UK).
- I restore my energy by: talking to people.
- My secret of success is: I have none, I'm still work in progress.
Multitasking and tackling obstacles
A typical workday involves multitasking which means she needs to arrange her schedule such that she has time to spend several days in a week on a single research project. Her usual office days involve different research tasks, meetings and activities related with several projects.
Regarding obstacles, Roxana thinks they vary depending on which stage of career development one finds her/himself in. A young professional might find it useful to focus on one objective, do it well, and then move on to the next rather than trying to do too much too early. Another point of reflection for overcoming obstacles is to work with other people’s limitations rather than against them – we all have our limitations and we shouldn’t be afraid to recognize and challenge them when appropriately. Roxana also acknowledges the importance of speaking up - be it about your expectations, wishes, worries, etc – but also have presence, take up space and don’t bow to hierarchy.
Limiting thoughts and outdated assumptions
Roxana thinks there are certainly conscious and unconscious biases affecting and influencing us and our decisions in the workplace. For example, the loudest, most dominating voice in the room doesn’t always have an important contribution to the meeting, while someone of a more reserved nature may have very interesting ideas and insights – in a working environment it is beneficial to have people that are able to appreciate both personality types. Another outdated credo is about the duration of ones working hours – long hours don’t make you more productive – we need to learn what works best and find the right balance for us.
Regarding mixed teams in fieldwork, with often times many male colleagues, Roxana thinks it’s important to acknowledge female-biased assumptions (such as the inability to undertake remote fieldwork) or expectations (that if they do, they should only perform certain tasks). It certainly is difficult to address such challenges but openness, networks and exchange with other women help identifying if not breaking down gender biases (BGS, for example, has initiatives and informal support networks active also during throughout the COVID pandemic).
The future and running
Roxana seizes the day and takes opportunities as they come. In the future she would like to keep her work people-orientated, working with stakeholders and support implementing research findings into practice and policy – with the ultimate aim of responding to and increasing the resilience of communities faced with current environmental challenges.
Her take-away message is “You have to learn how to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run” – suggesting that is important to be patient and start small on your path to achieving bigger goals, followed through by a plan on how to achieve them. Ultimately, not being afraid to change or adapt the plan if needed.