My Research Stay (away): Report by Luísa Cortat Simonetti Gonçalves

Luísa Cortat Simonetti Gonçalves has completed her PhD in Law at Vitoria Law School and Maastricht University. She was awarded a Green Talent in 2019 and conducted her three months remote research stay at the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) under the supervision of Dr Serena Caucci.

I completed my research stay at the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES), in Dresden. Well… The institute is in Dresden, but for my research stay, I was in Brazil. Just a small consequence of the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One may imagine I had my experience impaired because of the distance. However, considering the changing world and the several positive outcomes I had from the stay, I have a different story to tell. And this is mostly due to people. Even though virtually, I was very well received by the team with which I worked and by the university as a whole. The Science Forum was a determinant step to this process, by allowing the match with my supervisor for the research stay.

During the Science Forum, in 2019, we visited many high-level research sites and met various high-level sustainability researchers and experts. Although the UNU-FLORES was not amongst the visited sites, Dr Serena Caucci was present and it allowed us to speak about the projects we were involved in at the time and already foresee valuable collaboration. We maintained contact and conversations and she paved the way to the fruitful research stay, despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic.

Within the Water-Food-Health team, I was responsible for building the bridge between aspects from Chemistry and Biology, and Law and policy-making, in two projects. The first, about microplastics and antibiotic microbial resistance in the Mediterranean Sea, developed in a partnership with the Water Research Institute, Microbial Ecology Group Verbania, in Italy. This even resulted in a chapter, soon to be published at the Routledge Handbook of Marine Governance and Global Environmental Change. The second project, about the COVID-19 implications for plastic waste management in South Korea and potential solutions, in a partnership with the Korea Environment Corporation (K-eco).

During the three months of my stay, I also: presented an academic seminar about my latest research; gave a presentation at an event co-organized by the University of Minho and the University of Salamanca; developed a postdoctoral research proposal; became a member of the UNU Water Governance Network; participated in weekly team meetings and in occasional brunch/lunch informal meetings.

The collaboration with UNU-FLORES did not end with the Green Talents research stay, though. We are currently supervising master students in a partnership between UNU-FLORES and Dresden Technical University. This research is analyzing the economic tools being used by the United Kingdom to fight plastic pollution in watercourses. Furthermore, we are starting a collaboration about plastic taxation with K-eco.

Thus, fruitful and exciting are the first words that come to my mind to summarize my Green Talents Research Stay at the UNU-FLORES.

What I missed? Of course, I missed visiting the institute and meeting my colleagues in person. I also missed the opportunity to visit the beautiful Dresden. However, those are aspects that I still look forward to, especially considering the relationships built and the increasing partnership.

Read more about Luísa Cortat Simonetti Gonçalves.