[IAHR Talks] Interview with José M. Carrillo. Focus on professional development and IAHR activities in Latin-America

IAHR Talks


jose_m_carrillo_350x350px.jpg“I live in a challenging region. It has one of the highest risks of desertification in Europe and, at the same time, it suffers serious floods due to intense rainfall events. We also have one of Europe's largest saltwater lagoons and an intensive agricultural zone in the surrounding area…”

José M. Carrillo, associate professor in Civil Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT), Spain, president of IAHR South East Spain YPN, editor of the Revista Hidrolatinoamericana del Agua and editor of Newsflash Iberoamérica shares with us his professional experience as a young academic and IAHR member.

David Ferras, editor of NewsFlash World and vice-chair of IAHR technical committee on Education and Professional Development, interviews José M. Carrillo.

“Water is the driving force of all nature” (Leonardo da Vinci). Can we say water is also the driving force of your career?

It's interesting because my entire life seems to be linked with water. I grew up in a small coastal town doing water sports. Now, I have a need to live near a water mass such as a river or a sea. I don't need to see the water, but I need to know I can see it if I want.

When I started at the university, I didn't know much about the Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering specializing in Hydrology and Hydraulics in Cartagena. I chose it because of its subjects and future possibilities. I continued with an MSc in civil engineering in Valencia with the same specialization. By the end of the Masters, Prof. Castillo (UPCT) made me a job offer and I moved back to Cartagena to do my PhD. I didn’t know this world of water engineering would be so amazing. 

At what moment did you decide to follow the track of research in academia?

I had a small research experience during the final project of my bachelor’s degree. Prof. Castillo suggested I work on hydraulic jumps doing initial measurements with Doppler equipment in less aerated regions. 

During the final project of my MSc, Prof. Escuder-Bueno (Polytechnic University of Valencia, UPV) suggested I model my first dam with Computational Fluid Dynamics software. 

I guess those are the foundations for accepting some years later my first job and the opportunity of doing a doctorate in hydraulic structures with Prof. Castillo. 

So it looks like one thing brought the other and that Prof. Castillo strongly influenced you to pursue an academic career. Could you tell us a bit more about the key projects you've been working on since?

I think I was lucky. I had a really good mentor with plenty of experience. 

Since I started my career, we have worked on several contracts, from the analysis of channels to improve their use, the analysis of sedimentation and flushing in the reservoir of a dam in Ecuador, the scour downstream of some dams, the analysis of the water quality in wastewater systems, etc. 

In terms of research studies, we have focused on energy dissipaters, free falling jets, bottom intake systems, flushing operations, non-linear weirs… 

Currently I am Co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) in two research projects. 

The first one continues the line of my PhD, analysing energy dissipation in rectangular free-falling jets in a plunge pool. 

The second one analyses the flow characteristics in labyrinth weirs, for which I have the privilege of collaborating with Prof. Matos (Instituto Superior Técnico, IST). 

Based in Cartagena, Spain, you are living in a semi-arid area with one of the highest risks of desertification in Europe. How does your work contribute to revert or mitigate climate change effects in this beautiful region of Spain?

I live in a challenging region. As you say, it has one of the highest risks of desertification in Europe and, at the same time, it suffers serious floods due to intense rainfall events. We also have one of Europe's largest saltwater lagoons and an intensive agricultural zone in the surrounding area.

As we have this severe lack of water, we are collaborating with the local drinkable water supply companies to reduce water loss in our pipes. The main idea is to develop detailed hydraulic models and control the flows in micro-areas. 

We are also collaborating with the regional river basin authority to reduce flood events in the coastal towns. The main problem is the rain intensity and the nearly zero slope. The small ephemeral rivers disappear in the low-lying areas, creating intense floods. 

How did your involvement with IAHR started?

My mentor, Prof. Castillo, is a member of the association and explained all the benefits to me. Later, Prof. Sordo-Ward (the first president of the Madrid student chapter), encouraged me to launch the now called IAHR South East Spain YPN.

Could you briefly explain to us how the Spain YPN developed since you enrolled and what has been your contribution?

When I was the president of the South East Spain YPN (almost 7 years) the network grew to include members from several universities (Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Universitat Politècnica de València, Universidad de Castilla - La Mancha...). The YPN of the Colegio de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (CICCP) Madrid returned to offer many activities and the YPN of Galicia was launched. In our YPN, we were focused on knowledge transfer in water science and the relevance of getting youth involved in activities. Some of our activities were river workshops in children’s hospitals (creating a "real river" with water and sand in the hospitals), workshops in public libraries with a stream table, civil engineering Olympic Games “design your city sewerage system”, encouraging the girls with STEM projects related to hydraulic engineering, participation in scientific dissemination exhibitions (irrigation techniques for groundwater use, hydropower plants, embankment dam design, river engineering, harbour hydrodynamics, sanitary engineering, and fundamentals of hydraulics among others), mentoring through the program “introduction to research” in public high schools (IES)....

Besides this, we helped launch “IAHR Revista Hidrolatinoamericana de Jóvenes Profesionales e Investigadores” (IAHR Journal of Latin American Young Professionals): a journal in Spanish and Portuguese that aims to support hydraulic engineering in young Latin American communities.

Ribagua is also an IAHR journal from the Latin American division. Could you tell us the difference between them?

Ribagua is the reference journal in Latin America of extended research studies where top reviewers analyse each paper. 

Revista Hidrolatinoamerica is a journal for the YPNs of Latin America with short articles (3-4 pages), where the main author must be a YPN member. The journal may be considered a first step in their career to learn how to design the different sections of a technical or research paper or how to answer a peer-review process in a friendly environment. Our idea is that after this first practical exercise, an extended version of the paper might be sent to RIBAGUA. 

What other activities are you involved in regarding IAHR?

I'm not a “Young Professional” anymore but I try to maintain some of the activities in IAHR.

I continue to serve as the editor of Revista Hidrolatinoamericana. I hope this year we will index the journal in some databases used in Latin America.

With Rodolfo Alvarado and Tiago Fazeres, we are re-launching Newsflash Iberoamérica. Now, we are creating the materials for the 3rd issue of this new period.

I also take part in the IAHR technical committee on Education and Professional Development. 

A lot of things to do and so little time!

NewsFlash Iberoamerica is quite a new initiative, a couple of issues thus far. Could you explain to us a bit more of your vision for it?

The Latin-American Division is one of the largest and more active communities in IAHR (this year the XXIX LAD Congress will be held in Acapulco-Mexico), and it deserves to have a NewsFlash.

The three co-editors (Rodolfo, Tiago and I) select information, articles and updates on policies in Spanish and Portuguese that may be of interest to our active Latin-American community.

Going back to the first question, I see that water is also the driving force of your free time, is that right?

When I was a pre-university student, I used to canoe quite a bit. I was pretty good, and I won several medals in national canoeing championships. However, I suffered many sport injuries, so I had to quit.

While working at the university, we won some medals in the dragon boat European Club Crew Championship (ECCC). Last year I was part of the local organization of the ECCC 2019. On some occasions I also participate as a referee.

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