The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #27

A personal journey, from Africa to Switzerland – insights on education, nature-based solutions and women scientists

Guest: Darcy Molnar

April 9th, 2024

Episode Teaser


“…You should do what you love and not what you think you should do… and in the end, things will work out and you will be happy…”

Darcy Molnar is a Senior Program Manager at the Leopold-Bachmann Foundation and the Masters in Advanced Studies in Water Resources Program Coordinator at ETH Zurich. Growing up in West Africa, Darcy forged a career around creating opportunities for global education around the critical challenges that our world is facing including water security, climate change, disaster risk reduction and how nature-based solutions can help overcome these. She is also founder of the 500 Women Scientists Zurich chapter, which seeks to provide more visibility to women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

On today’s show, Darcy and I revisit how she developed her passion for water, from the rivers of West Africa to boating along the Nile in Egypt. We reflect on what it takes to teach the complex topic of nature-based solutions, explore her activities in creating global north and south knowledge exchange networks, and how she has encouraged and created a path forward for better gender balance in STEM at the tertiary education level.


Dr. Darcy Molnar is Senior Programme Coordinator at the Leopold-Bachmann Foundation and the Masters in Advanced Studies in Sustainable Water Resources Program Coordinator at ETH Zurich. She grew up in Cameroon and after forming a passion with water and science, obtained a Bachelor degree in Physics from Middlebury College in Vermont USA in 1991, a Masters in Water Resources Planning and Management in 1994 and PhD in Hydraulic Engineering in 1997 at Colorado State University. She has over 14 years of experience in program coordination, teaching and education at the tertiary education level as well as 5 years of experience working with secondary schools in Ghana.

Specific topics that Darcy specializes in include nature-based solutions (for climate change and disaster risk reduction), sustainable water resources management (environment, social and economic) and capacity building (tertiary and secondary). She is actively engaged in enhancing opportunities for women in science and engineering and in promoting youth-led projects for sustainable development in the Global South. To date, many of her achievements include the Network for Water and Life (NEWAL) in West Africa Project, setting up the 500 Women Scientists Zurich Chapter, setting up the Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Sustainable Water Resources at ETH Zurich and a number of other initiatives that she kick-started. Darcy was also on the steering board of of the Swiss Water Partnership (co-chair since 2021, until 2023) and an academic representative of Oeuvre St Justin Foundation (Fribourg).

Resources Related to the Episode

Episode Chapters

(Chapters are embedded in the episode for quick access, click this to expand and view all chapters and time stamps)
  • 0:00 Intro
  • 1:59 Guest Intro and her Egyptian Experience
  • 7:29 From Physics to Engineering and Development
  • 14:12 The Sanaga River
  • 17:15 Getting to Switzerland
  • 20:39 How to teach nature-based solutions?
  • 35:07 Network for Water and Life (NEWAL)
  • 44:42 500 Women Scientists
  • 48:30 The Kangaroo Math Competition
  • 1:00:30 Darcy’s New Adventure
  • 1:01:51 Q&A Start
  • 1:02:17 Key event, book person
  • 1:04:33 If you had a magic wand?
  • 1:05:23 Biggest challenge in career to date
  • 1:08:27 Time Management
  • 1:11:19 Advice for young scientists
  • 1:12:02 Where can people find you?
  • 1:12:20 Final Message
  • 1:13:24 Outro

Connect with Darcy Molnar

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