College/School/Department: College of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
What made you choose Davis?
I chose UC Davis because I wanted to work at a world-class university, conducting cutting-edge research alongside a very talented and dedicated group of colleagues. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is world-renowned and it is my privilege to join the department this year. I am also thrilled that my family and I will be able to take advantage of all the opportunities living in Northern California can offer.
What inspires you?
I like to think that I can make at least a small difference in the lives of others by pushing the envelope of knowledge. I try to guide by example and be the best person I can be for my family, friends, colleagues, community and everybody else. My curiosity and desire to learn new things, which maybe no one else has discovered, have always been my major sources of inspiration and excitement.
What research are you currently working on? What makes it unique?
Right now, I feel very lucky because I am working on several very exciting projects.
However, the project I am most excited about at the moment focuses on developing a sustainable and economic house construction typology based on compressed and stabilized earth blocks. This project is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. The main idea is to take something as ancient as adobe (i.e., constructions made of unfired clay bricks) and transform it into a highly engineered new construction material and technique that is safe against multiple hazards (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires), highly sustainable (basically, consisting of mechanically compressed soil with minimal use of energy and embedded carbon), energy efficient (this material provides great insulation without much added work), economic (with a cost similar to that of ordinary light-frame wooden houses) and aesthetically pleasant (I personally would love to have a house made of this material). One of the most exciting parts is that this type of construction could really transform the way houses are built everywhere by negating the widely accepted assumption that highly engineered houses must also be expensive houses. My vision for this work is to provide a large portion of the world population with access to safe, inexpensive houses. I get very excited thinking that my research could save numerous lives, minimize the impact of many natural or man-made disasters, and provide a much better quality of life for many people in need.
If you could impart one piece of advice to our undergraduates seeking a course of study/career path, what would it be?
Do something you like and be open-minded in figuring out what it is that you like to do. Life is too short to waste it on something that you do not enjoy doing, and it pays off to invest the time to truly understand what it is that you really like.
When not in the classroom or conducting research, what do you like to do?
I like to play with my 3-year-old daughter, and generally spend time with my family. I also like good food, especially desserts. Thus, I enjoy visiting new restaurants or cooking something new. Finally, I like to follow Juventus, my favorite Italian soccer team.
Have you found your favorite spot on campus yet?
I am still looking around, but given my passion of espresso, I am sure it will be a coffee shop.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
To move freely through space and time. Just because it would be so cool!