Sometimes it takes a tsunami to create a scientist

22 March 2019

Written by Rohini S. Swaminathan, Geospatial Engineer and Consultant

Why science, technology, innovation matters and what 'eureka moment' made you choose a STEM career?

As a child, I lived on an island off the coast of India, the closest point for refugees coming in from Sri Lanka.

The Indian east coast was often ravaged by cyclones and floods. But it is only after witnessing the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami that I understood the true impact of humanitarian crises and the urgent need for preparedness.

Many believed that we were hit by so many disasters because of nature's wrath. But I wanted to understand more. Early exposure to natural hazards and complex emergencies, combined with my passion for technology motivated me to pursue a career in geospatial science.

Applying this thinking to global problems, I realized affordable, scalable and innovative solutions are not a luxurious addition to problem-solving, but an absolute necessity.

Using satellite remote-sensing and geographic information systems, we apply disaster risk reduction principles to estimate multi-hazard risks in various countries around the world.

The same technology - and recent innovations such as drones - are used to respond immediately after major disasters. It is now crucial that such capacities become local for all nations, and I believe women will play a huge role in this field.

We are the proof that the world is doing well


There is nothing natural about disaster

Share a career anecdote and message about how they would like to see the world change as a result of workplace gender parity.

I believe when there is gender parity in workplaces everywhere, we would create a world which is not only developed and sustainable, but also content.

A world where women:

  • Don't have to choose between career and family

  • Can unapologetically make decisions

  • Participate in policy-making

  • Play a crucial role in governance

This will most definitely lead us to a healthier and a happier society.


Women in STEM: Changing the narrative

Women have been left out of much more than innovation, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers, but these are the sectors that imagine, design, build and code our future.

UNCTAD's Women in STEM campaign showcase incredible everyday innovators, engineers, change-makers and disruptors in their fields to tell their stories so that others may follow in their footsteps.

Women in Stem