Our interviewee this time is Dr. Daisy Lucas, an active member part of the founder team and current president of ICES. Daisy was born in Arica and has a doctorate in Civil Engineering, with a major in Geotechnics from the ETH University of Zurich Switzerland, her work experience ranges from the public and private sector in Chile, working in companies in the United States, Caribbean and Chile, mainly in infrastructure and mining.
Born in Arica, in the North of Chile, she studied her bachelor degree in civil engineering, with focus in structures-construction at the University of Chile in Santiago. Subsequently, she attended to graduate courses with a specialization in Geotechnics at the University of Chile, and earned a master’s degree at Renselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, United States, with expertise in geotechnical earthquake engineering. Daisy graduated from her PhD in civil engineering in 2019, where she focused in the research of landslides at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. Currently, she is working in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Switzerland, in the School of Engineering.
In terms of working experience, she worked in infrastructure maintenance for the government in Chile, quality assurance during a mining dam construction, geotechnical instrumentation, monitoring and laboratory for mining and road infrastructure in the private sector in Chile, United states of America, and also in the Caribbean working for a Canadian company. At the time, she is in Switzerland, collaborating in sustainability projects.
Among her interests and extracurricular activities, is the leadership and active participation in professional associations, where she can contribute to the society and interact with colleagues from different careers. During 2004 and 2006 she participated in the Chilean Association of Engineers, as president of the Young engineer’s and later as a member of the executive committee. In Switzerland, she is part of the Association of Chilean Researchers in Switzerland (ICES), and since 2019 is also member of the Swiss Engineering Association.
The research project, which was on slope stability in an alpine environment. I found it very interesting from a technical point of view, and at the same time, a new challenge in terms of scientific and work experience. Working in the Swiss Alps requires specific skills. My interest in the professional development and new experiences motivated me to come to Switzerland. Studying about slope landslides in a country like Switzerland and at an internationally recognized university like ETH was a great instance of learning.
My experience in Switzerland was of self-growth and development, both in the scientific and professional fields. At ETH and now at ZHAW, I had the opportunity of participating in projects with possibilities for collaboration in and outside of academia. Switzerland’s investment in research and infrastructure for its development is remarkable.
I highlight the importance of carrying out interdisciplinary research projects. In the projects I worked, different institutions of government, academia and industry were integrated, in all cases, they collaborated actively and provided the means to develop the objectives, which increased the potential of the results and their application.
An outstanding experience during my studies in Switzerland was working at ETH with Professor Dr. Sarah Springman, who was my Thesis supervisor. I was able to learn from her extensive experience and knowledge, her admirable level of discipline and commitment in all areas of work and research. Since she assumed as rector during my period at the university, I saw from my student role, her successful academic career.
Yes, definitely. In Chile, in soil liquefaction problems triggered by earthquakes, which have affected, for example, bridges, critical connection points in the country’s road infrastructure. Another case, in the mining sector, which could require monitoring and modelling of slope stability. Furthermore, a critical scenario are natural slopes susceptible to landslides, due to rain infiltration, either on the coast or in the mountains, that endanger surrounding communities. With investment and technology, early warning system and preventive measurements can be improved.
In general, for the development of my research area and others of relevance in Chile, I strongly believe that a greater investment mainly from government is essential, to support interdisciplinary research, non-centralised opportunities for all public universities. In addition, I would think of the implementation of more advanced laboratories with staff required for its operation. This can provide work and motivation to technicians, scientists and specially to PhDs who are preparing abroad and are looking for job opportunities on their return to Chile.
It is my perception that part of the scientific talent is lost due to lack of reinsertion opportunities. We shall look to the future, incorporating professionals who provide new alternatives for the sustainability of the country in terms of energy, transportation, natural resources, housing, etc. To improve people’s life quality, and for shaping future generations.
My short-term plan is to continue my work in industry/academia in the engineering area. I am currently in a project for a limited time, therefore the plan is to remain alert to new job opportunities and contributing to professional organizations such as ICES or the association of engineers in the country I live. I would like to travel to Chile, but it’s not possible at the moment, I hope I will soon have the opportunity to visit my family and friends.
My advice is to get well informed before arriving to Switzerland, if possible by contacting ICES or colleagues. This makes insertion and adaptation easier, Switzerland as a developed country, has a structured system of operation, talking to peers helps a lot for this purpose.
Perhaps one message is to take advantage of the experience of studying out of Chile, in terms of professional and personal development, and to bring this knowledge back to Chile when possible. For those who will come soon to Switzerland, I would suggest, to take contact with other nationals here in order to avoid isolation in these times of pandemic, especially if they just arrived. Maintaining mental and physical health are a priority when one is away from home.
The language, Switzerland despite its size, small compared to South American countries has at least three languages, German, French, and Italian. Depending on the area, it is the spoken language. I would say that with English one can survive, but to learn basic German (e.g. in the north of Switzerland) helps a lot to deal with daily situations outside of work.
Also, is good to know in general terms about Swiss culture and the cost of living with respect to Chile. Switzerland offers different activities and outdoor sports that are an important part of the local culture, personally I really enjoy hiking, visiting farmers markets, social tables, and festivities in alpine towns. Switzerland has a high cost of living, but so is the quality of life. Finally, cities like Zurich are cosmopolitan with chances to meet people from different parts of the world.