One of the goals of the Gender Equality Commission is to promote women’s involvement in science, so we are publishing the next story of women’s experiences. This story is about Gunta Grūbe, who worked in the Space Technology Laboratory at the Institute of Electronics and Computer Science and was mainly involved in the collection, processing and visualization of remote sensing data using various tools intended for this purpose.

1. Could you tell me about your academic background?

I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Latvia (LU) in geography and went on to study in the geomatics professional master’s program in Riga Technical University (RTU) with the option to qualify as a cartographic and geodetic engineer. I have to say that these two programs are quite different because LU focuses more on the natural sciences, while RTU focuses on the technical aspects of using different software for data processing. I have always encouraged others to be interested in natural sciences and similar fields because the teaching approach in university greatly differs from how it is in school. Geography is considered an interdisciplinary field, which allowed me to broaden my perspective in education and in science here at EDI.

2. In your opinion, what were the characteristics and the background knowledge that helped you in your studies and helped you start your scientific career?

I consider that for me personally it was my willpower, motivation and my general interest in the field. I have to be very grateful that, while studying for my bachelor’s and master’s, I have had excellent lecturers and people who have managed to show me what science is supposed to be like. During my studies I have spent even up to 12 hours in the laboratory trying to understand where I have made a mistake or how to deal with the given issue more effectively. A general interest in science allowed me to advance and end up here at EDI.

3. What can one do after earning a degree in geography? Do you know where any of your coursemates are working now?

In the geography studies in LU and RTU there was a greater emphasis on remote sensing, but it is possible to work in different governmental institutions. Many of my coursemates work in surveying companies. With the advancement of technology, surveying too has rapidly advanced. For example, these days with the help of drones and modern laser scanning you do not have to spend 8 hours on a field because it can be measured quickly and effectively.

4. What was your first work experience?

My first work experience was not at all related to science or research. I started working at a very early age, doing very simple tasks in the hospitality and service industry, as a chef. I have tried many different career fields, which are not related to what I do here in EDI, but every one of them gave me more opportunities and helped me understand how communication and cooperation between different departments works and how to work together to find a solution because, as it is well known, science is also based on teamwork.

5. Currently, you are an employee at the Institute of Electronics and Computer Science. What do you do here and what are your main tasks?

I am a scientific assistant in the remote sensing group and I mostly work with collecting, processing, and visualising remote sensing data with the help of different tools. Before I started my studies I had never imagined myself as someone working in science. It felt like a very distant and unattainable goal, until, while at university, I realised how interesting it actually is to spend time solving problems. You have to understand what you like and, if you are at least somewhat interested, it will give you the motivation you need to advance. How did I find this job? I saw a job advertisement on the website. I had sent my CV once but was not hired. A year later I sent it again and then I was hired and got this position. At first it was not easy, while I became familiar with what the work of a scientist entails. It is not like an office job with certain instructions where you have to do the same everyday together with a mentor, who manages the work. Here the system is a bit different. For me, as someone who was new to science, it was harder to wrap my head around all of it, but in the end I think it was a great learning experience to understand how research and work on projects is conducted. I have already worked here for 2.5 years and I have learned a lot.

6. What is career growth like in science? Do you feel like there is more room for advancement or have you already reached all the goals you have set for yourself?

The career opportunities here at the institute are great, that is one of the things I am glad about. I also tell others that EDI offers opportunities to new people.

7. How could a greater interest in science be achieved?

Interest starts during studies and through people who give you new knowledge. There is an art to presenting completely new information to people who have never heard it before. Being able to involve students in a more interactive manner, not just by reading theory, is already good.

8. What topics would you like to research in the future?

I would definitely like to continue the work I have started here in the last 2.5 years regarding remote sensing. Within the last 10 years this industry has developed rapidly and it will keep developing in the future. It is essential to understand how this data can be processed so that it can be used for practical applications. There are many areas where remote sensing data can be useful. In EDI we work on projects related to using remote sensing data to assess forest stock. This is useful for forest owners and foresters.

9. What is the work environment like in EDI? Is it inclusive?

In my opinion, the work environment in EDI is very suitable for both women and men. I have never felt like I do not belong in my team or the EDI team in general just because I am a woman. Many aspects depend on the individual. You have to communicate with your colleagues and find common ground, gender does not matter. My advice to women, also young girls and young scientists – do not be scared!

10. Do you feel valued here at EDI?

Yes, definitely! I feel valued and, as I said before, many things depend on the individual. If you do not do anything, there will be no results. But if you try your best and communicate with your colleagues, you can achieve the desired results for both you and your team.

11. Tell us more about EDI – what are the internship and job opportunities here?

EDI offers internship opportunities to people who are interested. I invite everyone, who is interested and wants to gain new experiences, to apply by contacting the institute, the contact details can be found on the EDI website. We have many interns and also people who used to be interns and afterwards earned permanent employment here, which, I think, is a very positive thing.

12. Have you ever participated in a conference or a forum on behalf of EDI?

The institute offers many opportunities, everything depends on the work you have done. There are options to participate in conferences if you have published a conference paper. Personally, I have participated in two conferences. One of them was recently in Tallinn where we presented the methodology that we developed to assess forest stock, and the other one was participating in the annual Riga Technical University conference. Such possibilities definitely exist.

13.  Does a woman have a place in science?

Absolutely! Here we return to what was said before – it does not matter if you are a man or a woman. If you are interested and ambitious, ready to learn something new, you certainly belong in science! We should not divide work in science between the genders because knowledge is the most important aspect. Also, in the institute the salary and anything else does not depend on gender. Everyone is equal, with equal salary that depends only on education and ability. Therefore, women definitely belong in science. I totally support it and always do my best to encourage new people to give it a shot.

Women in Science