Future Earth Coasts

FEC Dialogue with Female Scientist: Ms. Viola van Onselen

‘To dare cross boundaries and look beyond your discipline/niche to collaborate and solve issues together with other scientists or stakeholders. ’

—— Ms. Viola van Onselen


Viola van Onselen is a PhD candidate at department of Geography at the National Taiwan Normal University (Taipei, China). She is interested in various management approaches to coastal zone issues around the world, in terms of how human decisions have affected the natural landscape, biodiversity and vulnerability of these coastal environments and explore how sustainable approaches, like Nature-based Solutions, can increase the resilience of coastal zones.


Q: What skills and qualities does scientific research require?

A: When embarking on a PhD  I discovered that a huge part of developing your own project is to first consider what you stand for, what you value and what you like to do next in your career. This really helped finding my own identity through my research work. My research is focused on hazard risk reduction and sustainable methods to reduce the impacts of climate change. I realised that to me it is very important to have an impact with my research, that extends beyond the scientific community and can contribute to a healthier society and environment.

Some skills I highly value:

  • Commitment and persistence; research projects can have setbacks, take a long time, need a different angle, etc. You need to be committed and take responsibility to get results.
  • Critical and analytical skills; you often need to switch quickly, learn new things in a short time span, be critical of errors of yourself and peers, be curious and ask lots of questions.
  • Communication skills; since research projects become increasingly inter-and multidisciplinary, communication is a huge factor for the successful outcomes. I have the feeling this skill often seems to be undervalued.

Moreover, I would say a skill any scientist should require is to dare cross boundaries and look beyond your discipline/niche to collaborate and solve issues together with other scientists or stakeholders.


Q: How do you manage your time?
A: Planning is a huge factor to get through any PhD project. I learned that there are so many things that can come your way when you’re working in academia; from data analysis projects, to teaching, paper publications or other writing opportunities, etc. I have agreed to many small side-projects, also to get more funding for my PhD. That is why my plans changed all the time in the beginning. Arranging funding and proposal writing also is a big part of your work as a scientist, resulting in numerous obligations. All these activities need proper time management. I have weekly, monthly and yearly plans, but to manage my time efficiently, a huge part of my Monday mornings is prioritizing tasks for the upcoming week, now that I plan to finish my PhD.

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