Ana Elizabeth Ochoa Sánchez (Universidad del Azuay, Ecuador)
I was born on January 24, 1986 in a Latin family. My father is a doctor, and my mother is a primary school teacher. My brother was born four years later. I describe my family first, as I feel that they were and are my biggest support for everything I have wanted and achieved. My parents taught me perseverance, hard work and commitment through their examples.
The little girl you see in the picture makes me remember the many questions I always had and the many answers my parents always provided. They encouraged me to be curious and to speak my mind. I was lucky to be very close to my grandparents as well. I have vivid memories of them telling me how intelligent and bright I was and how far I would go in life.
I did not know anything about scientific careers until I the final years of my university studies, when my cousin was starting his PhD program. I really looked up to him and he helped me find a scholarship for my Master’s degree studies. My subsequent academic career started the minute I traveled to Belgium to follow the Interuniversity Programme in Water Resources (IUPWARE) Master’s Programme at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven). There I met wonderful professors, colleagues and friends from all over the world and lived in a culture that allowed me to become who I really wanted to be – a woman that does not have to live up to other people’s expectations.
I found out who I really wanted to become – a scientist. I always knew, however, that I wanted to do science for my own country and live in my country, so I came back to Ecuador.
I eventually got married and had twins in 2014. Thereafter, I started the Doctoral Programme in Water Resources at the University of Cuenca and I was the first person to obtain a doctoral degree at that university. I graduated in 2019, the same year I started to work at Universidad del Azuay, in Cuenca, Ecuador – my hometown.
I became an Associate Professor at the Universidad del Azuay in 2021 which, in my country, is the first tenure position that is obtained through merit and open competition. I am currently the Director or Co-director of several PhD, MSc and undergrad thesis students, am leading a five-year project funded by the VLIR-UOS, a Belgian Institution (“You always go back to the place where you were happy”). This project aims to determine climate change projections in Cuenca, Ecuador and propose water management adaptation strategies.
I am very grateful for the path that my life took and I know I am privileged for the education I received. I would like to help my little daughters have better opportunities. For example, I would love to see them grow up in a more equal and fairer world, where women are treated with respect and where they feel free to become the women that they want to be.