“Get to know us better” – Alejandro Celli
Next up in our ‘Get to know us better’ series is Alejandro Celli.
How and why did you get interested in engineering geology?
Engineering geology combines several topics that I have always had an interest in, such as understanding natural processes, and the application of geology to large infrastructure stability and safety. When I studied Applied Geology at University, I knew that was what I wanted to do; a branch of Geology that is especially relevant for society.
Where and when did you obtain your undergraduate degree and, if appropriate, your graduate degree(s)?
I obtained my degree in Geological Sciences at Buenos Aires University in 2011. I am currently a PhD student at Río Negro National University, in Argentina, where my research is focused on the study of landslides related to dam reservoirs.
Who have/has been your most inspiring mentor/supervisor?
In the academic field, my most inspiring mentor has been Prof. Carlos Di Salvo. Being a Professor in Applied Geology, he inspired me with his passion for Engineering Geology telling lots of anecdotes and adventures in the field. He is one of the best teachers I have ever met. Later, he directed my undergraduate thesis, and a few years ago, I inherited his position as a professor at the National Technological University (UTN) in Argentina.
In the professional field, Eng. Héctor Reynal has been my most inspiring mentor. He was my boss at the Argentinian National Agency for Dam Safety (ORSEP). I learned from him that no matter how junior you are, we all have something to teach and we deserve a space to develop our projects. He also motivated me to defend the role of the State in people safety and welfare.
If you did a thesis, what was your thesis topic?
My degree thesis was focused on the geological and geotechnical inventory and feasibility of a dam project in the center of Argentina. My current PhD thesis is based on landslide risk analysis related to a dam reservoir.
With what companies/organizations did you (have you) worked?
I have worked for several different companies, NGOs, Universities and National agencies related with engineering and environmental geology. The main companies I have worked for are Soletanche Bachy and Fundaciones Especiales. I have been collaborating with ASAGAI (Argentinian IAEG National Group) for several years and am now the treasurer. I also teach Applied Geology at the National Technological University (UTN) where I lead a research project and teach Dam Engineering at Buenos Aires University (UBA) in Argentina. I work at the Argentinian National Agency for Dam Safety (ORSEP) as a Head of Geology and Geotechnics and I also have collaborated several times with the Argentinian Geological Survey (SEGEMAR) and with the Argentinian Platform for Integrated Risk Management (SINAGIR).
What are your main areas of interest within engineering geology?
I am interested in different approaches for building a better quality of life for society through engineering geology. Currently my focus is on dam geology and landslides, and the potential of Citizen Science on disaster risk reduction.
What were (have been) the most memorable projects you’ve been involved with?
Each project brings anecdotes to tell. They can involve difficult situations and sometimes our lives could be in danger. However, looking back, all we have got are funny memories and life lessons.
Despite its 45 million inhabitants, Argentina is a very large and mostly uninhabited country as most of the population is concentrated in large urban centers. During my undergraduate thesis I worked in the center of Argentina, with only a few inhabitants and temperatures of more than 45°C in summer and below zero in winter. I spent a couple of weeks in summer in some kind of hovel, without electricity, fridge, water, telephone, cellphone or internet signal, but with many boars surrounding. I had time to think and experience the wildlife. I keep so beautiful memories of that project called Huelches, because it was my first engineering geology project and it reinforced my passion for this profession. Engineering geology took me to the cold mountains in a tent, to the hot desert in a hut, to the humid jungle in a trailer, and also to the comfortable city in a five-stars hotel. The opportunity to meet very different people in very different environments is one of the richest experiences of this profession.
Have you been in IAEG or your local young group?
I have been involved from its beginning in both Argentinian and IAEG Young Engineering Geologists (YEG) groups, as a local and South American representative respectively.
Have you won any awards (honours) for your technical achievements or your contributions to your profession? If so, what were they? Any other notable achievements?
I have won a special mention for my geology degree thesis, focused on Dam Geology, at Buenos Aires University.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dedicating oneself professionally to what one likes the most may not be an easy path, and if that path has been little traveled, one may be tempted to seek a simpler way out, but the payoff comes, not only at the end, but throughout the way.
If you would like people to contact you, please add your preferred method(s), e.g. email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc.