Science, sustainability & salsa-dancing: meet Negin Sarmadi

By Allegra Angeloni

Negin Sarmadi is a PhD student at the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT@UNSW) specialising in waste management and recovery. Negin is one of the talented Women in Maths and Science Champions and is currently working on innovative environmental solutions to the world’s biggest waste challenges.

Negin completed her undergraduate and Masters degrees in mining engineering at the University of Tehran in her home country Iran. It was here she discovered just how essential waste management is to countless industries. She moved to Australia to commence her PhD at UNSW where she works on Green Steel, a green manufacturing project developed at SMaRT@UNSW. Her project focuses on utilising carbon and hydrogen from waste rubber tires, plastic and coffee grounds as an alternative to coke and coal in steel production.  

Sustainability is certainly topical, as more individuals and industries make a conscious effort to incorporate eco-friendly practices into everyday life. When I asked Negin to explain what exactly draws her to this research, she responded: “We lose a million tonnes of valuable material every year as a result of the weaknesses at mineral processing technologies at mines, so working on mine’s waste recycling and recovery section opened my eyes to the bigger world of waste deposits which was everywhere. If we continue as we have in the past few decades to produce waste with no outlook of recycling, we will face a severe problem in the near future.  

“This is only one side of waste management’s coin; the other side is money. This is one of the most profitable fields that only needs attention and nobility. If you do not care about the earth and the environment, at least you can care about making money. To be honest, both sides are essential to me.” 

Outside her work in waste management, Negin loves to cook. In fact, she is well-known for the delicious homemade cakes she bakes. She describes cooking dinner after a long day at uni as “meditation” and “me-time”. She also enjoys salsa-dancing, which helps her de-stress following a jam-packed day at work. 

I ended the interview asking Negin if she could share some inspiring words of advice for young women interested in pursuing a career in STEM. Her response did not disappoint: “Self-confidence is attractive as hell, and it comes from independence, knowledge, and hard work. No matter what your field is, the only important thing is choosing your area of interest and putting the courage to pursue your goals. Be focused, be determined, and be empowered; there is no limit to what we, as scientist women, can accomplish.” 

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