Janaína Accordi Junkes, Brazil: Motivated by discoveries that help others
An outstanding young scientist talks about her inspiration, her research, and her experiences as a “Green Talent” in Germany.
The 32-year old Janaína Accordi Junkes is a 2010 winner of the International Green Talents Competition, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and supported by the United Nations University, Bonn. The award is given to outstanding young scientists from around the world, selected for their achievements in the field of sustainability research. A native of Criciúma-SC, Brazil, Janaína holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). Janaina’s research has taken her to the University of Aveiro in Portugal and Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg.
UNU: What motivates you to do your research?
Janaína: The possibility of making new discoveries that can really help others.
UNU: Why did you choose to become a scientist?
Janaína: It all began with my bachelor thesis. I was working in various laboratories doing experiments, learning, and discovering. Needless to say, I loved it. This is when I knew that I should continue on this path and that I was meant to be a scientist.
UNU: What scientist do you admire most?
Janaína: I could name many names, but I will give only one example. The professor who I worked with for eight years and who taught me how to become a good scientist; a truly admirable and honorable man, whose example I follow and hope to one day become a scientist as great as he is. I am talking about my dear Professor Dachamir Hotza from the Federal University of Santa Catarina.
UNU: How does your research contribute to sustainability?
Janaína: It contributes to sustainability through the development of new techniques for industrial waste recycling, giving an environmentally friendly destination for these wastes while preserving nature and thereby preventing waste from being disposed of in landfills.
UNU: Where does your interest in sustainable development come from?
Janaína: My bachelor thesis was focused on the field of waste recycling. One might think that this is a very narrow focus. On the contrary, my work in this field leads me to study and learn more about the world as a whole symbiotic system. Work conducted in sustainability is all-embracing. It is this very nature of sustainability work that makes you begin to think that you can change the world, which makes this issue incredibly exciting.
UNU: In your field, what would you state as a realistic goal and how would it be possible to achieve it?
Janaína: A realistic goal would be that every company in Brazil uses technology to recycle waste. This would be possible in the wake of a very strong national awareness campaign targeted at the general population and also through enforcing the application of fines for companies that do not recycle.
Challenges, Science and Society
UNU: What are the opportunities for young scientists in Brazil?
Janaína: Unfortunately, many young scientists are faced with the challenge of very few opportunities. This is because few Brazilian companies are choosing to invest their funds into R&D. This means that most scientists will try to pursue a career in academia. This, too, can be frustrating for many due to the small number of universities within the country.
UNU: What are the biggest challenges that science can help solve in Brazil?
Janaína: Scientists could resolve many problems in the field of recycling and preservation of natural raw materials, but the application of their research is lacking. Since Brazil is still a developing country, it will take a while for most of the research to be applied.
UNU: Do you feel that scientific results are properly taken into account by decision makers?
Janaína: Solid research that could actually be implemented, or even help to create laws and standards of a sustainable production, is only stored in libraries in the form of articles and theses, never to be tried or tested.
UNU: What needs to be done?
Janaína: To turn this research into something tangible, encouragement needs to come from the government and universities not only monetarily, but also through encouragement that praises the researchers’ value and shows faith in their work.
Green Talent Experience
UNU: What motivated you to participate in the Green Talents competition?
Janaína: There are few congresses, conferences and competitions in the sustainability area, the Green Talents competition being an exception. Moreover, the Green Talents is an international competition, and the ability to compete at an international level aroused my interest.
UNU: As a Green Talent, you are given an opportunity to do a research stay at an institution of your choice. You are now doing a research stay at the Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen-Nurnberg. What do you think are the strengths of German scientists and German technology and research?
Janaína: German scientists are very committed to their work, but I think this comes from the German education system. As far as technology is concerned, I think that German technology is the best in the world. Germany has the best engineers, which is also due to the advanced technology within the country. The research is consolidated and strong, and the amount of research centers scattered throughout the country, both in companies and in universities, is impressive. All these aspects together make Germany a wonderful place for a scientist.
UNU: What are the most important things that you learned during your research stay as a Green Talent in Germany?
Janaína: I learned that Germany is far ahead of the curve when it comes to conducting research and taking viable actions related to sustainability. Here, every single person, whether a scientist or not, wants to help preserve the environment, be it by saving energy or separating garbage. Each individual does his or her share in transforming Germany as a whole. Furthermore, I see how the government backs these initiatives and supports research in the area of sustainability.
UNU: What do you like best about the Green Talents competition?
Janaína: I like the opportunity to visit so many wonderful research institutions and also the opportunity to meet and interact with other scientists from different parts of the world and to learn from their experiences.
UNU: Imagine Green Talents in 2050. What do you think will be the focus of their work?
Janaína: Clean energy and food.
Oksana Buranbaeva (buranbaeva[at]vie.unu.edu)
Jessica Rosenfeld contributed to this article.
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