If you seek money I don't think it's the best answer, but if you seek to do something that you love, money will be a consequence of it. After I finished my undergraduate engineering degree in Brazil I saw most of my friends take jobs in oil and food companies. I was not willing to do that, so I went traveling to take some time to ask myself what I actually wanted to do. It was while traveling I saw that the biggest challenge humanity has is related to water. I wanted to make a difference, that's why I decided to study water quality.
I'm currently doing my PhD in stormwater at the University of Canterbury. People don't realise, but when it rains, the rain water washes onto the city surface and brings pollutants and all the rubbish from the streets into the local rivers and streams. We need to remove the heavy metals, contaminants before they get into the streams.
My research involves getting data from stormwater treatment plant, which is wetland. It's a lake in a park. A couple of times per month I go there. I'm into nature, it's rainy, it's sunny, different weather, some animals around, nature. This outdoor part of environmental engineering is a key component for me because I don't want to be all the time in the office. I go to the stream collect stormwater, bring it back to the lab, do all the lab analysis, and I need to write about the data that I collect.
I'm getting a lot of hands-on, practical experience. All the data that I am collecting, I am sending to the city council. It's useful to the local community.
I also do some teacher assistance – I give tutorials, mark assignments, help in labs. I work with undergraduate students to do their practical work in streams on the university campus. We teach them how to use the equipment, how to collect water samples. And we’re actually improving the water quality of the university’s streams.
I think teaching is the most important work. It's been three years I worked as teacher assistant here, which enables me to earn money while I study, and I love it.
As a student and a teacher in New Zealand I've learned here there's no one right answer. I've learned that there are many answers, but what we are taught here is to find the best we can do at that moment with the resources we've got, with the time we've got, with the money we've got, and the knowledge we've got.
I've learned here that teachers guide students to find for themselves the answer. It has changed my perspective of teaching.
I think New Zealand is far ahead in the sense of water quality. I want to learn more about stormwater, and then spread the word. I would like to share this knowledge that I've gained here with other people, other countries. I would like to go back home and inspire students to make a difference in water quality, environmental science and these kind of things.