A researcher from IHCantabria is a candidate for the V Cantabria Woman Award
This week, Onda Cero Cantabria -the regional radio station of the Onda Cero radio network – has announced the candidacy of María E. Maza Fernández for the “V Cantabria Woman Award”. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Cantabria (Universidad de Cantabria, UC) and a researcher at the Environmental Hydraulics Institute of the University of Cantabria (IHCantabria), where he leads the team focused on the analysis of nature-based solutions for coastal defense and climate change adaptation, within the Risk, Resilience and Adaptation Group.
The following interview allows us to know a little more about María Maza’s profile, to understand how relevant her candidacy is, not only for the UC and IHCantabria, but for the whole region and to stimulate more scientific vocations in girls and young women.
What motivated you to study and work in science and, specifically, to specialize in the analysis of nature-based solutions for coastal defense and climate change adaptation?
Since I was a child I have been very curious about nature and physical processes, and I enjoyed solving problems. In addition, I have always loved mathematics and physics. All of this led me to consider studying engineering. The truth is that I didn’t know which one, so I went to the UC Open Days to find out more about what was being done at each of them. In the case of Engineering of Roads, Canals and Ports, I could see that there were many different options within the same career, related to subjects that were of interest to me, and that is why I decided to do that career. Already there, when I saw the courses related to the sea and the coast, I was able to confirm that this was my field of interest. The fact that I grew up next to the sea and the hours and hours I spent during my childhood and adolescence on the beach of Berria, with my family and friends, I think it was also crucial for me to follow that path. Also, throughout my career I could begin to see that research was something I would like to do. Getting to know research groups at the Higher Technical School of Civil, Canal and Port Engineers at the UC, in Santander, along with the course I took at Cornell University helped me to reinforce that idea. In addition, without a doubt, my older brother, who is a University Professor in the area of fundamentals of economic analysis, was always a reference for me. All this led me to do a master’s degree specializing in coastal engineering where I was able to start working with those who later became my thesis directors in the study of the interaction of waves with vegetation. These early works allowed me to start thinking about new ways to protect the coast, from the more traditional engineering to the use of ecosystems as coastal protection elements, and hence my main line of research is now focused on the study of nature-based solutions for coastal protection and climate change adaptation.
In addition, since I was very young I have had a clear vocation for teaching, I have always enjoyed staying in the breaks explaining a subject to a colleague. So there was not only my interest in research, but also in teaching. Therefore, I always knew that I wanted to be a professor. After working abroad, and despite receiving very good offers from other prestigious institutions, I decided that I wanted to return to my homeland. I have the immense fortune of having an extraordinary family, besides living in a beautiful land, and for me it was a priority to be close to them. Fortunately, my incorporation as a professor at the University of Cantabria, together with my work as a researcher at IHCantabria, has allowed me to settle in Cantabria, where I have been able to enjoy my work as a teacher and researcher.
How do you usually develop your work?
In my day-to-day work, I do both research and teaching. In the first case, my research focuses on understanding the processes involved in the interaction of flow with coastal ecosystems in order to develop new tools from basic science, but that serve to help society. Specifically, I seek to promote the use of so-called Nature-Based Solutions as coastal protection measures in order to help society adapt to the effects of climate change on the coast in a more sustainable and resilient way. Fortunately, at IHCantabria I work with a team of excellent, motivated and hard-working people who firmly believe in the need for these solutions and work with me on a daily basis to advance knowledge and help these solutions to be implemented effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, at this institute we have a unique scientific and technical facility.
As for my teaching work, I teach several subjects at the Higher Technical School of Civil, Canal and Port Engineers at the UC, which I enjoy very much trying to help students to understand all the subjects and to enjoy the wonderful learning process. In addition, I am the Coordinator of the Excellence Exchange Program with Cornell University. The same program that allowed me, as a student, to take one of the courses at this prestigious university and in which now, with great enthusiasm, I try to help both our students and the Cornell University students who come to the UC, to live this extraordinary experience in the best way.
¿Could you briefly explain what you are currently working on?
In my work, I aim to advance science by developing new formulations and tools, always keeping in mind the impact this can have on society, to address some of the big challenges we face, such as the impacts of climate change on the coast. To achieve this, I work with my PhD students and other researchers and technologists at IHCantabria and from around the world, resulting in new scientific publications and the development of projects to meet these needs.
In addition to my research, I teach with great passion and commitment. I really enjoy teaching and I always try to do my best to get the concepts across to the students so that they don’t just focus on passing, but on learning. In addition, I carry out management tasks, as I mentioned with regard to the Coordination of the Cornell Program, as well as the Communication Coordination of the Higher Technical School of Civil, Canal and Port Engineers at the UC, trying to bring the profession closer to the new generations. In addition, I collaborate in science outreach activities to try to stimulate more scientific vocations in children and young people.