How was your journey from Physicist to Data Scientist and specialist in wildfires?
I started my career in Romania, by completing my Bachelor in the Physics field, where I studied mathematics, chemistry, and statistics, apart from the Physics topics. Basically, this degree offered me the opportunity to build a strong foundation for a broad background, which helped me, later on, to add knowledge in other fields, as well. I was very passionate about research, so when I started my Master in Physics of Atmosphere and of Earth and my Master in Computer Science and ICT, I also started my career in research and I published my first research article in a peer-reviewed journal.
For 20 years I taught topics in various fields such as Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Information Technology, and Environmental Sciences, while I undertook research especially in atmospheric pollution, using the data science skills I developed in the meantime. In this period, I also got a research fellowship in the United Kingdom, at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, which was funded by the European Union, and I had the chance to work in a £5 Million research project focused on urban pollution – monitoring and modeling.
In 2010, I started my position as a Manager and Lead Researcher in Physics at the National Institute for Cryogenics and Isotopic Technologies, in Romania. In 2011, I accredited RENAR this laboratory, which became the only (and the first) accredited laboratory in the world that produced heavy water standards. The heavy water standards were mainly used at the nuclear reactors in Cernavoda, Romania, but they were also used in research by other institutes.
In 2014, I started my PhD at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, but I continued to work remotely for the Romanian national institute until 2016. The Australian Government offered me two scholarships: one that covered the tuition fees and the Health Insurance in Australia, and one that provided a fortnightly stipend, both available for the entire PhD stage. Doing research in the bushfires (wildfires) field, I became an associate student at the Australian Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC, who also offered me a Top-Up scholarship. As a PhD student, I was involved in many volunteering activities, while teaching various subjects at university, and delivering workshops.
After I completed my PhD, I founded a not-for-profit called Tech4Future, focused on research and education in science and technology. Through this, I launched two global ongoing initiatives: The first one is Mystique – a Global Wearable Technology Fashion Show – a project which aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics to students, to inspire interdisciplinary global collaborations, and to encourage females to join STEM fields. The designs had wearable electronics (lights, sensors) connected via IoT (Internet of Things). In the long run, I am aiming for the designs to be able to collect data that we can send through IoT and analyze it for various insights.
The second initiative is F.I.R.E. (Fire Initiative in Research and Education), which aims to stop the wildfires across the world, by changing the land management and the wildfires management, and educating the people. I am also working on the prototype of an innovative device that can stop wildfires without using water or toxic substances.
Apart from these two global ongoing initiatives, I am involved in research in smart farming and wearable devices for health monitoring, both topics being focused on the hardware and software parts, but also on the gathering and analysis of the collected data.
What is your approach regarding collaborations and working with people?
I am very open to collaboration, and I am always involved in research or applied science and technology-related projects, with people from Australia and overseas.
STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) is the same everywhere on Earth, and I believe that this can be used as a liaison between people from various corners of the world, knowing that having things in common always brings people together.
Also, I really enjoy working with people from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and Australia is a fantastic place for that! The multicultural environment here is quite unique, people are open, friendly, respectful, and considerate. It is a pleasure for me to collaborate with others to reach a common goal, and when it comes to global initiatives, the more people involved, the merrier!
Can you tell us something about you as a person?
In my free time, I enjoy talking to people, spending time in nature, and playing with my cats and dogs. Since I was a child I’ve always had cats, dogs, fish, birds, and hamsters.
I am a very energetic person, I ride my bike, and I like sports like swimming, volleyball, and tennis. More than anything though, I like to dance, so every time when I hear an entertaining song, I start to move my body.
I am the type of person who intensively lives in the present while planning for the future in the short, medium, and long term.
Gabriela can be contacted via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/graducan/