World Environment Day: Solving climate change

We can no longer deny that climate change represents a major challenge for society and for the scientific community. Suzanne Lutfalla is deeply involved in this challenge, both professionally and personally, through her participation in a number of initiatives and organisations tackling this issue. According to AgroParisTech’s Scientific Director Thierry Doré: “her work could have a huge impact on our understanding of the processes whereby more carbon could be stored in soils, and therefore help combat effectively an increase in climate forcing”. This brilliant young researcher tells us more.

Could you tell us, in a nutshell, what your research is about?

My research aims to improve our understanding of how carbon stabilises in the soil. In the short term my results could lead to more effective modelling of the soil’s response to global changes in terms of carbon budget (land use, climate, etc.) and a better understanding of the carbon cycle. In the long term my work could be used to develop climate change mitigation strategies by determining possible ways of storing carbon in soils.

Were there any triggers that prompted you to choose a career in science?

I have always been extremely curious and interested in everything. I remember asking my parents millions of questions. I like learning new things, understanding how the world works and above all I want to contribute to a better understanding of climate change. A career in this field seemed to fulfil these expectations; that’s why I decided to do a PhD.

What aspect of your work do you particularly like?

I definitely like the freedom and creativity that every PhD student experiences. I also enjoy the feeling that I am furthering the advancement of science and contributing to something useful.

Why do you think there are so few women in science?

Social convention unquestionably plays a huge part: from a young age, boys and girls are assigned different roles, for instance through the toys they are given to play with, so of course, in most cases, when the time comes to choose a career, women are faced with more difficult choices. There is also a lot of self-censorship. But things are starting to change – one initiative comes to mind: the GoldieBlox start-up started by a former mechanical engineering student to develop construction games not aimed solely at boys and to show that being a girl doesn’t prevent you from building things.

What are your interests outside work?

Climate change is a challenge I want to respond to both scientifically and personally. That is why I am involved in several initiatives and organisations broadly connected with sustainable development, in particular as a member of the Climate-KIC community. I’m very interested in eco-transitional thinking, climate negotiations and the contribution of clean technologies and renewable energies to the development of environmentally-conscious lifestyles.

Tell us what measures you have taken in order to make your life more sustainable and reduce your impact on the environment on Twitter at @4womeninscience!

Suzanne Lutfalla received a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in 2014.

For Women in Science

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