To Be…Dr or Not to Be, That Is the Question

Nikoletta Tsiarta (ESR14)

We were asked to write a few words about ourselves and somehow explain in short why we ended up doing a PhD in wastewater treatment technologies. Let me first start by saying that I am not an engineer but my passion for science, especially with anything related to water, led me to the wastewater treatment sector.

I am Nikoletta Tsiarta and my water journey begins in Cyprus, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. I started my undergraduate studies on Environmental Science and Technology although my dream after finishing high school was to enter the medical school. The first days were tough. I remember myself thinking of dropping out the university and searching of alternatives to join any medical school. It was that moment of your life that you need to decide what you want to be and what kind of impact you want to leave on this world. It was difficult and frustrating.

It took me some time to realize it but after following all these classes related to every aspect of the environment; ecology, aquatic chemistry, hydrology, toxicology, waste management, renewable energy, environmental biotechnology, water treatment, water quality analysis, engineering principles and many others, I felt passionate about the idea of making this world a better place. Not only for us, but also for the next generations. And improving the water quality immediately caught my interest since the world is mainly water and we are made of it!

Eager to explore both water sciences and the world, I took every opportunity to combine them. Willingness, enthusiasm, hardworking, networking, Erasmus scholarships, and work experience are some of the reasons that I am now part of the NOWELTIES project working as an Early Stage Researcher at the Catalan Institute for Water Research in Girona. During my postgraduate studies, I mainly focused on the aquatic ecosystems function and the effects that global change pose on them; from lakes to marine ecosystems. The discharges of several compounds from human activity (fertilizers, detergents, pharmaceutical, microplastics, etc.) and the climate change effects put a huge pressure on the sustainability of fresh- and marine habitats.

It is of great importance to keep our aquatic environment in a good ecological status. Anything we use in our daily life comes back to us through the environment and water is the most common transporter. Consequently, I took the decision to move from an ecological point of view to micropollutants’ treatment using ozone as part of advanced oxidation methods in combination with ceramic membranes, because I believe that these two fields are strongly correlated to each other. Treating the wastewater with an environmentally friendly way so it can go back to the environment as clean as possible should be one of our priorities. If you cannot control a problem from its source, then try to solve it before causing more troubles. This is exactly why I decided to continue my studies in the wastewater treatment field.

Concluding, from my experience so far, I realized that it is not only the hard work and your passion for something that will move you forward but also having people by your side that support you and believe in you. My advice is no matter what your chosen pathway is, make sure that you will be surrounded by this kind of people. Today when I look back, I believe that day back in 2011 I took the right decision. I consciously chose to follow a career in water sciences and who knows? One day I will be the doctor (Dr) I was always dreaming of (the white coat I already have it!). Any journey we choose will be never easy, but it is on our hands to make it interesting. Never give up and be positive, that’s my motto. Having a twin also helps!! 😊