USF Magazine Fall 2013

Volume 55 | Number 3


Maya Trotz: Sustainable Vision

| USF News

Maya Trotz

Photo by Russell Watson | R Studio

As a young girl growing up in Guyana, Maya Trotz was enamored with the notion of sustainability. “We probably didn’t use the term, but the concepts interested me,” she recalls. “We were short on water, short on electricity; foreign imports were banned. I grew up in a political context that was ‘make your own, grow your own.’”

In college Trotz would come to learn that the field of environmental engineering would give her the knowledge and skills necessary to develop solutions for the issues that interest her most.

Today, Trotz is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USF. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s and doctorate in environmental engineering from Stanford University.

Her teaching, research and service are at the nexus of water chemistry, community engagement and global sustainability.

Currently on sabbatical with the Caribbean Science Research Foundation (CSF) — an organization she helped found focused on science and technology in the Caribbean region — Trotz recently returned to Tampa for the inaugural STEM Ambassador Program. For 24 secondary-level students and teachers, the program was the culmination of the 2013 Sagicor Visionaries Challenge, an initiative sponsored by Sagicor, the CSF and the Caribbean Examinations Council, that asks secondary school students across 12 countries in the Caribbean to develop a sustainable solution for a challenge facing their school or community using STEM concepts.

How can the U.S. partner with the Caribbean to address issues of sustainability?

In so many different ways! You could not ask for a better study site than an island when talking about issues of limited resources and vulnerability to issues of climate change.

What is the most important thing we can do to advance the sustainability agenda?

To personally live by it and give visibility and voice to its champions.

Did anything surprise you about the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge?

The enthusiasm and appreciation of people in the 12 countries. There really is room for so many more innovative STEM initiatives in the Caribbean region.

Why focus on K-12 education to address issues of sustainability?

We, as engineers, can’t just come up with solutions that are band-aids, as we traditionally do. We have to be out there; we have to change education and the curriculum. Education at every level has to be an integral part of our research.

Why is STEM education so vital?

The challenges we face in the world require many disciplines to come up with a solution, many in STEM fields. In the U.S. and the Caribbean, the number of students going into STEM fields is small. The challenge is making these fields accessible and desirable so we have more problem solvers at the table.

What’s next?

Pushing Caribbean - USF - Tampa Bay collaborations. So many folks want to be a part of what’s going on. I think I have a voice to give, and people are very interested. My vision is for USF to be known as the leading institutional partner with the Caribbean for research and education in sustainability.

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Quick Takes

Your hero: My dad

Hobby: Multimedia

Classroom or field: Field

Caribbean or Gulf: Caribbean

You in a word: Motivated