Raquel Silva

Photo taken at UNC for the graduate students’ photo display in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Raquel Azevedo Silva recently earned her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Engineering at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her doctoral research on climate change, air quality, and human health was focused on quantifying the global mortality impacts of ambient air pollution.

Originally from Portugal, Raquel came to the US in 2007 to join her husband who was a post-doc at Duke University. Her professional path has not been a traditional one. After earning her undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering at the New University of Lisbon, she worked for over 10 years as Quality and Environmental Manager in a construction company. While working at this company, she completed a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Policy and an MBA program at the New University of Lisbon. She was also a certified instructor for professional students and a quality management lead auditor/technical auditor for the Portuguese accreditation board. After completing the MBA program, Raquel took a short leave of absence and worked in London on an international research project for the London School of Economics/McKinsey & Company. This was an amazing experience and she thought that management was her career pathway.

However, life took a turn: Raquel got pregnant, had triplets, and moved to North Carolina. After being in the US for over two years she decided to pursue a PhD. She was advised to focus on quantitative research, as this would provide her with invaluable skills no matter what her future career would be, and she started her program at UNC – Chapel Hill in 2010. These past few years have been challenging for her (talk about work-life balance with three elementary school-aged kids!) but also exciting. Doing high-level research was an extraordinary experience, as was her participation in the Future Faculty Fellowship Program and in multiple outreach programs. Currently, she is working part-time for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services doing climate and health vulnerability mapping. Looking ahead, she would like to teach and do outreach work and to broaden the scope of her research from an environment and health focus to a sustainability and well-being perspective.

Raquel learned about ESWN from another female student in her research group and joined the network at the end of 2012. She has read the general forum daily digest ever since. Closely following discussion topics makes her feel connected to other women working in science. In 2014, Raquel supported ESWN to become a non-profit and she planned to be more engaged in this wonderful organization. Although until now that has not been the case, she hopes that soon she will be able collaborate in the newsletter and ESWNonline, the job resource efforts, and to promote regional networking events.


Raquel’s graduation from UNC – a very important moment for her, as her children and her mother were in the audience. Raquel tries to highlight these moments of achievement to her daughters and her son as women working in science still struggle against gender bias and impostor syndrome, as has often been mentioned in ESWN forums.
Photo taken by one of Raquel’s children when she picked her up from summer camp on the day of her defense