2016 Hellman Graduate Awardee
1st Year PhD in Environmental Science Policy and Management
My research interests broadly focus on the problem of soil and water pollution due to human activity, and how engineered systems can help preventing these contaminants from affecting both environmental and human health. My work so far as an environmental engineer from Chile has focused on developing mathematical tools for simulating the transport and fate of sediments and sediment-bound pollutants during runoff events for various climate, soil and topographic conditions, while also simulating best management practices (BMP) for preventing soil degradation and pollutant transport downstream. Currently, I am investigating one particular BMP called phytoextraction for preventing the transport of heavy metals derived from old mine tailings, which are the source of many of the water quality problems in the Bay Area and in many countries worldwide. My goal is to develop a mathematical model for predicting the effectiveness of phytoextraction for removing heavy metals from the soil under a wide variety of soils, climates and vegetation in order to determine if this BMP is a feasible solution for the water quality problems associated to mine tailings. Moreover, if high extraction rates are observed, such those found in literature for specific hyperaccumulators, I want to assess the economical benefit of reclaiming the extracted ores to determine whether phytoextraction (or phytomining in this case) can actually become a profitable BMP.
“I am truly honored and excited for receiving this prestigious award as it will allow me to pursue my academic ambitions in ESPM, one of the best departments in my field worldwide. I thank the Hellman Fellow Fund for this amazing opportunity, which I hope will contribute to the development and understanding of the environmental sciences and towards a more sustainable society.”