UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


International Women's Day 2022 - Dr Isabela Butnar

8 March 2022

For International Women's Day we asked some women from BSEER about how they got where they are today, what they’re most proud of and what advice they’d offer to other women working in a similar role, read about their experiences below.

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Around the world people are marking International Women's Day. We are joining them by celebrating the contributions and achievements of women in our department.

Dr Isabela Butnar

Senior Researcher in Bioenergy Systems
UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

How did you get into your current role?

I joined UCL back in 2016, coming from an industry background. My move back to academia was motivated by both the breadth of exciting research at ISR and personal reasons, including UCL nursery facilities and flexible work arrangements which allowed for a better work-life balance.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently investigating sustainable transition pathways to net zero greenhouse gas emissions at multiple scales, i.e. local, UK, global. Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 involve that we are reducing our current emissions as much as possible and offset the residual emissions with CO2 removals from the atmosphere. My work contributes to both sides of the equation. I collaborate with local councils across the UK to develop tools to help them understanding and planning feasible ways to reduce their emissions as soon as possible. At the same time, I am coordinating the development of a multi-disciplinary greenhouse gas removal evaluation framework designed to help decision making on scaling up greenhouse gas removal in the UK in a sustainable way on the long term (beyond 2050).

What work achievements are you most proud of?

I am proud of how much my research network has grown since I joined UCL. I got to know and work with so many inspiring academics and non-academics from the UK and abroad on a very timely topic which is on everyone’s agenda: how to transition to net zero in a sustainable manner. I feel like I am contributing to the ongoing discussions at different levels of decision-making, and that I can put my expertise and skills to help connecting the dots and supporting decision-making with robust science.

What advice would you give to other women working at a university in a similar role?

My main struggle was to find the right balance between being a mum and being a good researcher, also trying to squeeze in teaching. I think my main advice would be to trust yourselves that you can follow and deliver your dreams, even when it all feels overwhelming, and you feel you run out of brains at the end of the day. Learn to prioritise and don’t hesitate to delegate and empower others on the way. That makes it all easier to deliver and so much more fun.