School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Keeping your studies contained – Meet Vanessa Di Battista

PhD candidate in Civil Engineering 

by Phil Gaudreau, April 2020

Amy Cleaver

You might be surprised to find out Vanessa Di Battista’s favourite place to visit is Antarctica.

“It’s a special environment,” she says. “You’re with people you know for months at a time, nobody comes in or goes out, you can’t buy anything, and–depending on what time of year you are there–it’s sunny all the time.”

Vanessa is a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering and is studying how different kinds of membranes help prevent contaminants from leaking into the environment.

Vanessa has had two opportunities to visit Antarctica, with each visit lasting two and a half months, as part of her research into geomembranes. She is working alongside Australian researchers to examine how a clay liner is protecting the local habitat from fuel spills. The goal is to understand what affects the liner’s performance to improve them going forward.

“Antarctica is a challenging environment and you can’t control the conditions like other parts of the world,” Vanessa says. “I enjoy the problem-solving basis of civil engineering and how each site I work on is unique.”

Still, if there’s one geotechnical environment she enjoys most it’s the classroom. After working as a teaching assistant and teaching fellow, Vanessa got bitten by the academic bug and hopes to stay in academia after graduation. She’s keen to embark on another adventure to wherever an opportunity might exist.

“I will be sad to leave Kingston though, as it is such a beautiful and historic city,” Vanessa says. “I have made many friends here and particularly enjoy my time with the local roller derby community.”

Her advice for future students considering graduate studies is to look before you leap.

“Take time to plan and set goals, even if it seems better to jump in,” Vanessa says. “Understand where you want to be months and years out. This will help you complete your studies sooner.”

To learn more about civil engineering graduate programs, visit the School of Graduate Studies’ website.