‘It’s crazy how abundant plastic is now’

Uncertain about what the future holds after graduation, Marlein Geraeds has one thing clear. Whatever she does will involve her passion for research and sustainability.

“I did my bachelor’s in civil engineering, then I took one year to see what mathematics was all about.  Now I’m back at the Faculty of Civil Engineering doing a master’s in Hydraulic Engineering and my specialisation is in environmental fluid mechanics. I did an internship and then I started my master’s thesis last year. I hope to finish before the summer so I can start thinking about what I want to do after that.

My internship was with The Ocean Cleanup. I really liked their values, that they want to want to take action to protect the marine environment by cleaning up everybody else’s mess. It’s crazy how abundant plastic is now and we don’t even see it as something that shouldn’t be there. It’s just always there. So, I saw a job opening on their website as a River Research Intern, got invited for an interview, told them what I can do and what I value and asked if there was something I could do for them.

They said yes, they had a project for me about finding a more effective way to monitor the amount of plastic that floats in rivers. At that time, they were using manual counts from bridges. They gave me some artistic freedom and it came to mind that it would probably be easier to monitor the plastic from the sky or with drones. I mentioned the idea and they said it was exactly what they were thinking about as well. I was very happy about the work I did there and that I was even able to publish a paper about it.

‘I chose a very different project just to experience what’s out there’

For my master’s project I’m working with the Port of Rotterdam and looking at the Rotterdam Waterway. They’re currently doing a project in which they are depositing dredged sediments from the harbour basins in the Rotterdam Waterway instead of directly depositing it in the North Sea. They want to see if this method could reduce dredging costs and CO2 emittance by letting the natural system take care of part of the sediment. I have to find out whether the hydrodynamics allow for such a thing and whether our models can predict things like that. It’s very different from my internship project but it’s also around the topic of sustainability and involves research.

I specifically chose a very different project just to experience what’s out there. I’m still uncertain about what I’ll do when I graduate. Sustainability is still high on the agenda for me and I’m leaning more towards going into research. That might mean doing a PhD or working with a company in research and development. I really enjoy research and scientific writing, but maybe I will take some time to think about it and decide the direction I will take.”

Who are the people who work and study on campus? We meet them in Humans of TU Delft.

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Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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