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Cecilia Fenech, Environmental Scientist
Earth & Environment

Cecilia Fenech, Environmental Scientist

Cecilia Fenech works as an environmental researcher. Her main responsibility is to conduct research on identifying the sources of nitrate pollution in our rivers.

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Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Work expands to fill all time available. You decide your lifestyle, depending upon your time management capabilities. I make time to play a team sport, go out with friends and even take regular holidays to go home. Yet you still need to work hard. The project is like your baby: you live through it for a couple of years, yet you need to make time for yourself.

Describe a typical day?

There is no typical day in a researcher’s life. Some days you might be in the lab doing experiments, on another day you may be outside sampling or abroad at a conference. It is a challenging job, but very rewarding.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Being a researcher, the main responsibility is to complete the project you are doing. My main responsibility is to conduct research on identifying the sources of nitrate pollution in our rivers. It is a form of pollution forensic science. Apart from the field sampling of river water and its analysis in the lab, my responsibilities also include writing scientific papers related to my project and presenting my work at conferences and meetings in Ireland and abroad.

What are the main challenges?

Dealing with things that don’t work is the main challenge. You are doing research into a new area, so many things work, but many things do not work. It is not a series of great discoveries, but a series of non-discoveries and hopefully one discovery over a period of years.

What's cool?

I love travelling and meeting other people. You get to go to conferences and meetings abroad and meet other people who love your subject as much as you do. I love that I am my own boss (to a certain degree), though your supervisors are there for you to turn to for support.

What is your education to date?

  1. Degree in Chemistry and Biology, University of Malta
  2. Master’s Research Programme, University of Malta

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

I think the extracurricular aspects of my education are among the most relevant to my course. Participation in sport and music activities, the local community and science competitions have all proven useful. As part of my job there is no one to run after you to make sure you did your “homework”, and by being involved in numerous activities (while still giving my best at school) it allows you to learn all about time management and also how to deal with different people. In particular it has taught me how to speak about my research to different people coming from different backgrounds, which is an important trait when attending conferences or meeting new people.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Work expands to fill all time available. You decide your lifestyle, depending upon your time management capabilities. I make time to play a team sport, go out with friends and even take regular holidays to go home. Yet you still need to work hard. The project is like your baby: you live through it for a couple of years, yet you need to make time for yourself.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Any kind of lab work will prepare you for the lab portion of the work. Other aspects such as participation in the local community, being in a sports team or a committee are also important, as they are good learning experiences for working within a team, time management, organisation of work and project management.

What is your current job title?

Environmental Scientist

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