Professor Cristina Trois, South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Waste and Climate Change at UKZN, contributed a chapter to the recently published book Rising to the Top – Global Women Engineering Leaders Share Their Journeys to Success. She is one of only two South Africans among the 32 contributors who share their journeys to leadership in the field of Engineering.
The book, published by the Global Engineering Deans’ Council and the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, features the stories of women in positions of leadership in Engineering from almost 20 countries including the United States, Sudan, Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, India and more.
Trois joins South Africa’s Ms Naadiya Moosajee, a co-founder of WomEng, in describing her career advancement in the South African milieu.
Trois’ chapter is titled, From Commitment to Impact and touches on her academic career in Environmental Engineering, the mentors who inspired her, how she arrived in South Africa from her native Sardinia more than 20 years ago, the challenges of being a female Engineer in South Africa, and her approach to research and teaching. She also details her career trajectory to become UKZN’s first female Dean of the School of Engineering against the backdrop of an intense period of transformation in South Africa and at UKZN.
‘It is a self-reflection and a candid analysis of my academic career so far, and I hope it will be of guidance, or at least of interest, to other women scientists and engineers in the academic profession,’ said Trois.
In her chapter, Trois advises young female academics to focus on understanding their profession, their career choice, and the explicit and implicit “rules” governing their profession. She discusses her success in strengthening research collaborations locally and internationally with various institutions.
Trois also details her research-led approach to teaching and learning, and her belief in transformative curriculum development that is context-specific, and in applied research that is innovative and solution driven. She emphasises her passion for shaping young engineers who can act as “vehicles of social cohesion” and contribute to their country and profession.
Trois was awarded the National Research Foundation (NRF) / Council for Scientific and Industrial Research SARChI Chair in Waste and Climate Change earlier this year. Throughout her career, she has pioneered initiatives to encourage young women to pursue Science and Engineering. She received the highest honour from her home country this year when she was, made a knight of the Italian Republic in recognition of her contributions to her field.
Trois has made significant contributions to a number of projects including South Africa’s first leachate treatment plant, the first African landfill-gas-to-electricity project, UKZN’s Centre for Research in Environmental, Coastal and Hydrological Engineering and a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory for environmental engineering research. Among many groups, societies, councils and institutes, she is part of the International Waste Working Group – Southern Africa Regional Branch, and holds a C2 research rating from the NRF. She develops academic coursework and currently supervises 20 postgraduate students and researchers, and has graduated 45 postgraduate students. Trois’ international activities include serving as editor and reviewer for numerous journals and institutions and collaborating with experts in Italy, the UK, India, Germany, France and Switzerland.
Words: Christine Cuénod