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Research assistant at Aalborg University

Research assistant at Aalborg University

Coming from Mexico, Alberto aimed to study his master’s degree in Environmental Management & Sustainability Science, as he aimed to get knowledge about sustainability in a country context. Under his studies he did an internship in Stockholm at a research center named Nordregio. After finishing his studies in 2017, he has become a Ph.D. research assistant at the university, where he works today.

Why did you choose to study Environmental Management & Sustainability Science?   

“I chose to study in Denmark because I wanted to learn about sustainability in the context of a country, which is internationally considered as “advanced” in most sustainability categories. For example; renewable energy generation, bicycle friendly urban areas and a solid welfare state. I specifically liked the EMSS programme because it provided the freedom to choose different topics to explore within the broad range of “sustainability”, and it allowed me to take an approach to study these issues from a social-sciences perspective, not only an engineering and a technical one.”

Full name: Alberto Huerta Morales

Job titel/function: Research Assistant

graduation year: 2017

Age: 29

Recidence: Aalborg

How did you experience your study time at Aalborg University? 

“It was a great time, I was surrounded by people from all over the world who shared my enthusiasm towards sustainability, but with completely different conceptions of what it is and how to achieve it. This environment was perfect for learning, reflecting on my own understandings and for personal growth.” 

How was it to study in Denmark when coming from Mexico? 

“The system is completely different from the average education that is available in Mexico, particularly group work, problem based learning and the high degree of independence that students get. Thus, there was a kind of “cultural shock” in the first few weeks. However, with the help of Danish students, staff, and my other classmates, I was able to adapt and learn to navigate in the system rather quickly.” 

Did you do an internship? If you did, would you recommend it? 

“I definitely would recommend an internship. I managed to get an internship in Stockholm at a research center called Nordregio. In there I spent 2 weeks, and the rest of the time I spent in Aalborg. This flexible arrangement allowed me to keep my job here, and also get some real experience of what it means to “work” as a researcher.”

How did you get your first job? 

“Since my last semester studying at EMSS, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies as a Ph.D. student, so I started to have conversations with supervisors regarding what possibilities were available and how could I get an opportunity at AAU as a Ph.D. student  Luckily, one opportunity was open soon after I graduated, so I applied to for it and got a job as a research assistant.” 

What is your current job situation and what does it imply? 

“My current position is as a research assistant. I was hired to manage and execute a project regarding Circular Public Procurement, in which Aalborg University is one of the leading partners along with several municipalities, research institutions and governmental bodies from other EU countries.” 

The picture is taken during a partners meeting, after a workshop on Circular Procurement that took place in The Hague, Netherlands. It shows that researching does not mean working alone, most of the times you are involved in projects working with people with various positions (government workers, phd students, environmental consultants etc.) and from different cultural backgrounds (in this case: Dutch, Danish, Latvian, Swedish, British).

Which skills from your education can you use in your present job? 

“Right now I am applying most research skills such as literature review, qualitative data collection (e.g. interviews) and analysis. Furthermore, the theories that I learned during my studies, for example, institutional theory, help me carry out the activities that are assigned to AAU in the project. Furthermore, the experience with group work has also facilitated the process of working in a multicultural research project.”

If you need to highlight a project you have been involved in, which one should it be? 

“That would be the project in which I am currently involved. I am involved in topics related to circular economy, circular business models and public sector innovation. All of those topics, I had to some degree, experience during my studies, so it is quite exciting to actually apply that knowledge in a real-life context, with partners that are not from an academic background.”