Katharina Biely

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My research career started as a student at the University of Vienna (Austria), studying International Development. My motivation to study was based on finding out why certain problems such as “underdevelopment” have still not been solved and why problems are only shifted in time and space. During my studies my focus shifted from development towards sustainability. Within this time, I took electoral courses in agriculture, social ecology, anthropology and developed my inter- and trans-disciplinary background. In this period, I also did three internships, one at an NGO and two at research institutes. Through these internships I got first hands-on experiences performing research on sustainable value chains or literature research for an FP7 project about biodiversity and climate change. My master thesis was a comparison between environmental and ecological economics.

After graduating with distinction, I completed a PhD in business economics at Hasselt University (Belgium). I was part of the environmental economics research group and performed research and project management tasks within the Horizon 2020 project SUFISA. My PhD research was about market power and sustainability. During my PhD studies, I further gained experience in inter- and transdisciplinary research, wrote scientific articles as well as project-related reports.

Currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Energy Transition Lab at Delft Technical University. I am investigating the role of human behavior in transitions. To do so I integrate behavior on individual and on system level. I am developing a new conceptual framework of sustainability transitions, which makes use of resilience theory. The starting point is the assumption that the current system is unsustainable, but unfortunately, resilient to change. Accordingly, I aim to identify and understand the factors and mechanisms that make the system resilient to change. Thus, I want to investigate how resilience can be overcome, rather than sustained. Apart from resilience theory, I make use of behavioral research and systems thinking. As a deep transformation has not happened on system-level it cannot be studied on this level. Therefore, I investigate transitions on the individual level by looking at drastic, voluntary lifestyle changes. With this research, I do not only aim to understand transitions on the individual level but connect it also to the system level potentially allowing me to understand how resilience can be overpowered.

I do not only perform research on sustainability, but I also try to live it as much as possible. This is not merely because I think that researchers have a great responsibility to not only showcase and practice what they preach. I also understand this as a chance for self-experimentation. I understand my personal life as research object. I draw much insight and inspiration from experiencing and reflecting upon the challenges and joy of change.

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