Professor Cristina Trois of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) has many firsts to her name. She is the first Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Engineering, first woman professor, and South African Research Chair (SARCHi) in Waste and Climate Change. However, the latest in her series of achievements is the award of knighthood with the attendant title of ‘Cavaliere del Lavoro’ from the Italian Republic for receiving the ‘Ordine al Merito del Lavoro’ (Order of Merit for Labor). This is the highest honor the nation can give to its citizen.
The national chivalric Order of Merit for Labor was founded in 1923 by King Vittorio Emanuele III. It is given to citizens who have been ‘singularly meritorious’ in agriculture, crafts, lending and insurance, and industry and commerce. Consequently, the award was conferred on Professor Cristina Trois on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. Presenting the award was the Ambassador of Italy to South Africa, His Excellency, Paolo Cuculi. The presentation ceremony held in Durban.
The contributions of Professor Cristina Trois to engineering
Professor Cristina Trois is originally from Sadinia, Italy. However, she has been an academic at UKZN for over two decades. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental and geoengineering from the University of Cagliari, Italy. Trois has made an immense contribution to research and teaching in her field. Her World Bank-sponsored research was the framework for the first landfill-gas-to-electricity Clean Development Mechanism project in Africa. The research allowed Durban municipality to produce 10 megawatts of electricity from waste.
Professor Cristina Trois is also at the head of the initiative, ‘Engineering is a Girl Thing’. The initiative encourages young women to pursue Science and Engineering. Consequently, Professor Cristina Trois was a first runner-up in the 2016 Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Women in Science Awards (WISA). Trois’ recent work is on multi-national research endeavor: the Hub for the African City of the Future. She is also a member of the International Waste Working Group (IWWG), Southern Africa Regional Branch.
The other sides of Professor Cristina Trois
Apart from engineering, Professor Cristina Trois also has love for art. In November 2018, she organized a cocktail with the theme ‘Waste to Art as a Means of Social Upliftment’. The event held at the KZNSA Art Gallery. However, the most inspiring feature of the event was the dressing of students in eco-friendly recycled materials.
Professor Cristina Trois is also very passionate about climate change. Therefore, she is doing all she can to create awareness on the topic. Her ‘Neptune Project’ is a waste management initiative of SARCHi that highlights the negative impact of climate change on the environment through art.