To those girls with a scientific vocation: “Believe in yourselves, you can do it,” says Didem Civancik-Uslu

Didem is doing her PhD Thesis at the New Materials Research Line of the Chair.

Didem is doing her PhD Thesis at the New Materials Research Line of the Chair.

Gender inequality already exists in our lives, it is a very complex issue to change but, slowly, little changes are being done. This reflection have never discouraged Didem Civancik-Uslu, PhD student at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, who decided to study Environmental Engineering at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. Since the first moment that she decided to study an engineering and enter in one of the best universities in Turkey, she suggests herself to never give up and try to achieve her goals.

When she was a high school student, her main objective was entering in one of the most relevant universities in the country, and thanks to her commitment and passion, Didem accomplished her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree studies on Environmental Engineering at METU. During this period, the researcher highlights that she has lived in an equal gender environment. One important detail she stands out is that her department at METU was women-dominated with a significant lack of men. “I constantly observed a pleasant environment in my department that motivates me as a student but also as a teaching assistant, surrounded by a positive relationship between students, teaching assistants and professors,” she highlights.

As a result of experiencing this unusual situation, considering the male-dominated science and technology sectors, and due to her attitude, Didem shows a strong self-esteem: “I have never thought that a man could be more successful than me for being a man, I think it is all about believing in yourself.”


Women’s empowerment

“When I think of a scientific person, I do not imagine a man, maybe because I am coming from a background driven by women,” stressess Didem. Despite that, she recognizes that gender differences are a reality in multiple day by day contexts: “There are more men in the upper echelons of science. From what I see, there are some problems uniquely faced by women in science and technology fields, as the difficulty in combining a demanding profession with family commitments.”

“Our work in the research line does not finish at the office, since it requires a lot of self-sacrifice. Therefore, combining the academic labor and the private scene is a difficult challenge, and I admire the women capable to do it as my PhD Thesis co-advisor, Rita Puig, who is an environmental engineer and professor at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC),” explains Didem.

To achieve gender equality “we can not accept unconscious bias on the basis of gender. It is important for us to remember what is obvious: both women and men can provide results, both can teach, both can make publications and lead congresses, both can do everything they propose. The key is in our minds,” according to the researcher. She also highlights that slow progress in this issue is being done: “If you look at a long term, women in the past did not have the right to choose almost anything. In contrast, I have all freedom to do whatever I want and I do not have to justify it to anybody else.” And addressing a clear message to encourage women and girls interested in science, she says (brief and concise): “Believe in yourselves, you can do it,”.


The researcher has a big passion for travelling, an activity that allows her to fulfill the curiosity of discovering the world.

The researcher has a big passion for travelling, an activity that allows her to fulfill the curiosity of discovering the world.


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