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Fadji MAINA: “As in many fields, women are not well represented in the world of research"

Hi dear reader !

My name is Fadji Maina. I am from Niger and I am currently a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the United States. I work in the field of earth sciences, more specifically in hydrology. My research work consists in using satellite data and high performance computing methods to understand the evolution of water resources in the face of climate change.

I was born in Niger where I did my schooling until the baccalaureate. After high school, I went to Morocco to prepare a degree in geological engineering at the University of Fez. After, I did my master in Engineering and Environmental Science and my PhD in hydrology at the University of Strasbourg in France. Following my PhD, I did a 6 months postdoc at CNRS in Strasbourg and another one year postdoc at the Polytechnic of Milan. Finally after Milan, I started the American adventure, with a postdoc at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Climate change is more than ever a reality and many people in the world today are menaced by this crisis. This threat comes in the form of lack of water resources, which is called drought or excess water, which results in flooding. Humans have altered the natural system and my research aims to understand how these anthropogenic (human, ndlr) activities have affected the natural system, specifically how these activities affect the water cycle and what the consequences are. The goal is to understand this new human-driven system by using satellite data in order for us to adapt. Currently, I am studying the interactions with anthropogenic activities and water resources in Asia (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc.) and the United States. I have also worked on water resources in France, Italy, and the Sahel in Africa.

I am a researcher and my current work requires a PhD. The PhD was the key for me to pursue my career internationally. It also trained me in research and pushed my curiosity. The PhD turned research into a real passion for me. It was three beautiful years of discovery and learning, despite the difficulties that are part of the research work.

I have very good memories of my years as a doctoral student, certainly because I had one of the best supervisors, Philippe Ackerer, who always knew how to support me and push me to go forward.

As in many fields, women are not well represented in the world of research, especially in Earth and Universe Sciences. There are many reasons for this and the lack of women makes the situation more complicated because they have difficulty standing out.

I have always been curious, and I have always wanted to solve problems. As a child, I didn’t know that this curiosity was a sign that I wanted to pursue a career in research. When I discovered the world of research, I immediately knew that this field would allow me to explore the many questions I had, such as: Why don’t we have enough water in my hometown of Zinder, Niger? Why do we suffer from drought?

I am very passionate about the search of knowledge and what I appreciate the most is, that the more we learn, the more we search, the more we realize that our universe is immense and our knowledge very limited. This feeling of knowing that there are many things to discover pushes me to be a researcher.

I love to read books on history, economics and autobiographies. Reading allows me to discover another universe of knowledge different than mine and pushes me to relate this universe to my research world. Normally, when I am not overwhelmed, my days begin with a sports session of one hour and end with a reading a great book. I love to travel and discover our planet earth, as we say “nature inspires and humbles us”.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate! Here my email address is :

Believe in your dreams and surround yourself with people who believe and value your precious dreams.

Written by Mazzarine D. and Elisa M.

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