WOMEN IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION - INTERVIEW WITH Selma Aparecida Cubas

Tell about your professional experience and work at UFPR

Selma: I am a Civil Engineer graduated from the Catholic University of Paraná and a PhD in Hydraulics and Sanitation from the School of Engineering of University of São Paulo, São Carlos. I am Associate Professor at the Department of Hydraulics and Sanitation of the Federal University of Parana (UFPR) and part of the professor group of the Postgraduate Program in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering (PPGERHA).

I entered in the ​​Sanitation area in 1991, during high school, through a Technical Sanitation course, offered by the National Service of Industrial Learning of Paraná (SENAI). In 1993, I started to work as Sanitation Technician to work in the Environmental Health area of ​​the Municipal Health Secretariat of the Curitiba City Hall, where I stayed for three years, working in areas of social and environmental vulnerability. During this period, I studied Civil Engineering and graduated by December 1997.

As a newly graduated civil engineer, I worked on urban road and drainage projects in a private company founded by retired public sector engineers. There I learned a lot about the public-private relationship, as well as having the opportunity to learn from those who had knowledge beyond books, gained through years of work.

In 1999, I started my Master's degree in Hydraulics and Sanitation at the São Carlos School of Engineering - University of São Paulo with the Anaerobic Reactors Theme, funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). After qualification I was invited to do the Direct Doctorate, being the first of the Department of Hydraulics and Sanitation to have the title of Doctorate directly.

In 2003, I returned to Curitiba and started my career as professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná and the Positivo University Center, currently Positivo University. Two years later, I joined the first postgraduate program in Environmental Management at Positivo University, where I developed my research until 2017.

I also work as a volunteer in the Board of the Brazilian Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (ABES) since 2017, where I defend the Universalization of Sanitation, believing that Basic Sanitation is a right of the citizen and a duty of the State.

 

During your career, have you encountered challenges due to being a woman?

bol37 won01 enedinaSelma: No. Luckily, I was always respected as woman, engineer and professor. But I think I am an exception, because I chose an area focused on health and environment, in which women make a difference. I have always fought hard for my ideals, I am not afraid of challenges, but I know the difficulties that we women face on a daily basis.

I was always inspired by Enedina Alves Marques (1913-1981), the first woman to graduate in Civil Engineering in the state of Paraná and the first black engineer in Brazil, in 1945 from UFPR. She was a poor black woman, a maid and literate at the age of 12, who managed to overcome all the barriers and prove her competence. So, if I face the challenge of proving my competence as a woman, I am not discouraged, on the contrary, it gives me strength and courage, after all I have a goal to reach, an open path and something to achieve.

 

How do you perceive the changes and increase of the women participation in the areas of science and innovation in Brazil?

Selma: In fact, there is an increasing participation of women areas of science and innovation in Brazil. As I am in the area of civil engineering, it is easy to see, because we already have the participation of women more effectively.

In the Postgraduate Program in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering - PPGERHA that I am inserted in UFPR, there are currently more women than men, mainly in the doctorate, where 80% of doctoral students are women.

 

Have you been encouraging diversity in your projects? If so, how?

Selma: I think this has naturally happened. Many more women than men are participating in my projects and their realization is my realization as a professional and as a woman. There is a mutual admiration.

 

Are your projects aligned to the SDGs approved by UN? If so, could you give examples?

Selma: Yes. All the projects I develop or are involved in, I try to align with the SDGs.

 

Projects in Basic and Environmental Sanitation:

There is no way to act in Environmental Sanitation, without considering SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), likewise, a city and community will only be sustainable with the universalization of sanitation (SDG 11), as well as representing good health and well-being (SDG 3).

In the projects, the focus is on the development of sustainable sewage treatment plants, adopting the concept of Circular Economy, using the generated gas as accessible and clean energy (SDG 7), being a means to combat climate change (SDG13). The liquid should be treated more efficiently because its final destination is the receiving bodies (water or soil), i.e. designing systems that can provide protection from life under water (SDG 14) and life on earth (SDG 15).

Project “Agri-food life cycle of Curitiba municipality and metropolitan region aiming at sustainability”:

The objective is to maximize the potential ongoing benefits for the sustainable development of the Agri-food Cycle in Curitiba and its Metropolitan Region, highlighting the social and economic aspects already established in the different programs and inserting, in this context, the environmental issues, which make up the sustainability tripod.

This project is coordinated by women and most of the research is also being done by women. It is held in partnership with the Curitiba City Hall, Federal University of Paraná, Federal University of Technology – Paraná; Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná; Positive University, and mainly the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) of Sweden.

In this project we seek to meet:

  • ODS 2 – Zero Hunger, through projects and implementation of food banks for donation;
  • ODS 3 – Good nutritional quality food;
  • ODS 6 – Clean water and sanitation;
  • ODS 7 – Food waste treatment and clean energy production;
  • ODS 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure;
  • ODS 10 – Reduced inequalities;
  • ODS 11 – Sustainable cities and communities;
  • ODS 12 – Responsible consumption and production;
  • ODS 13 – Fight against climate change;
  • ODS 17 – Partnerships for Goals.
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