Trine Marie Stene, Research Scientist at SINTEF Technology and Society
Trine Marie Stene does research on our attitudes to safety – when we are travelling on two or four motorised wheels. This has just gained her a fresh dr.polit. degree. She doesn’t like to take chances herself, perhaps as a result of an unpleasant meeting with a car when she was still a child.
“I remember it well. I was eight years old and had gone down to the motorway with some older girls, when I was run over. The driver managed to skid the car round, but I was hit and thrown several metres. Luckily, I got off with only a few scratches. But what made the most powerful impression on me was the reaction of the driver; an adult man who burst into tears,” says Stene.
When she started her professional career after taking a master’s degree in psychology, she decided to go in for safety research rather than practise as a psychologist.
As a researcher, she is interested in the mechanisms that control what we do; the interaction between what is rational and what is emotionally controlled. “How important is learning for the way we behave in traffic, and how important is our emotional state when we make choices?” Interest in questions like these led her to the interdisciplinary doctorate which was a cooperative project between the Departments of Traffic Research and Education at NTNU.
“We just have to realise that emotions are more important than we care to admit. When so many people drive too fast, it is not because we do not know what an 80-kilometre speed limit means,” says Stene.
Joie de vivre and a feeling of freedom are other elements that control us. This is something that emerges in particular in interviews with motorcyclists.
Stene has just started a project on how secondary school pupils experience learning relative to their psychological ‘daily form’.
She is quite ready to admit that she herself is an emotional person, which means that she puts a lot of herself into her work.
“I am one and the same person whether I am working or not. That is why it is essential for me to work on something that is important, something that I do not have to justify to myself.”
Both SINTEF’s vision of “Technology for a better society” and the possibilities of interdisciplinary collaboration make working at SINTEF attractive for Trine Marie Stene. Here there are plenty of different disciplines and people to work with.
“SINTEF has close links to both the University Hospital and to NTNU itself, which makes for a large, interesting professional environment. We need to exploit this even better, because a lot of exciting things are happening at the point where technology, social science and medicine meet.”
This is why Stene is keen to see a guest-researcher scheme being established; a system that would enable researchers to exchange work- places with other departments and subjects for a few months.
“Knowing and relating directly to other people is essential for interdisciplinary work. In practice, it is also a matter of talking over the lunch table or a cup of coffee in the next-door office; a matter of interpersonal relationships”.