Alex X. Jerves

Scientific research, technology, and innovation are the only answer and solution for society, humanity, and for our country to face its problems, challenges, and evils.

Alex Jerves

Alex X. Jerves, researcher at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics of ESPOL.

Briefly, tell us about your research work, which area you work in, and what the results of your research have been.

I am the leader and founder of Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group. This is a research group in computational, theoretical, experimental, mathematical modeling of physical, economic, optimization, and applied mathematics in general. The group has researchers from ESPOL, USFQ, EPN, Universidad de Cuenca, as well as University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, Grenoble Alpes in France, and Caltech in California, among others.

INSPIRE (Institute of Pioneering Research of Ecuador) came from the Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group. INSPIRE is an initiative to create a scientific research institute that allows researcher students of technical degrees who are finishing their majors, or recent graduates, to earn a living wage, work, and live from scientific research. In addition, this labor supply is unique in our country where the market demands only professionals and not scientists. Our website is: http://inspire.ec

Tell us about the subject of your research.

The original name of this research project is “Mechanical, mineralogical, morphological and computational characterization of Ecuadorian Soil: A nationwide first data baseline”, which in Spanish is translated as “Caracterización mecánica, mineralógica, morfológica y computacional del suelo Ecuatoriano: Una primera base de datos a nivel nacional”.

In this scientific research project we presented a first attempt to generate a national baseline of the mechanical, mineralogical, and morphological features of Ecuadorian soil. With this objective, the analysis of undisturbed soil samples corresponding to the capitals of twenty-three provinces and six other significant locations in Ecuador is carried out as follows: First, the analysis of the particle size distribution and Atterberg limits which allow obtaining the classification of each sample according to the Unified System of Soil Classification (USCS), which provides important information on the mechanical behavior of the soil. Secondly, non-drained unconsolidated three-axial tests are carried out in order to determine the soil strength, that is, the internal friction angle and the cohesion. Third, the chemical and mineralogical characteristics are obtained from the dispersive energy spectroscopy (EDS) in a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Fourth, the morphology of the grains is obtained by calculating parameters such as roundness, sphericity, grain volume and grain surface area. Through the 3D X-ray computed tomography (3DXRCT) of the samples, the real shape of each grain is recovered first and then the images are converted into mathematical functions called 'Level Sets' (LS), which allow us to perform calculations on the morphology of the grains. Therefore, a virtual database can be created to generate more precise mathematical models with predictive capabilities and improved evaluation of the microstructure from a real physical sample. These are the first steps to develop more sophisticated computer models, which could eventually replace both, the need for extensive and expensive laboratory tests to understand natural phenomena, and the use of phenomenological models that do not incorporate micro-mechanical and morphological mechanisms, which is key when it comes to predicting the behavior of the material. However, much remains to be done...

How your experience in creating this proposal, and what was the greatest difficulty that you as a researcher found in consolidating this initiative?

This is an original idea of the Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group and INSPIRE. We have been working on and developing this during the last year and a half. Proof of this is a presentation of the project in the Open Data UIO 2018 in CIESPAL (see video of the presentation by Rafaela Betancourt, member of INSPIRE, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_ybOdIbnhM). A variety of investigative difficulties have had to be faced. For example, the lack of funds and the lack of own equipment to develop the research have not allowed the project to be carried out with the haste of the case and we have been forced to carry out the X-ray computed tomography in three dimensions (3DXRCT) resolution of 1 micron / pixel at the University of Grenoble Alpes in France, since this equipment, and specialization for granular materials (soils), do not exist in the country.

On the other hand, the paperwork that involves procedures for the support of the Universities´ Presidents and other people is always tedious.

Being an Ecuadorian researcher, how do you see the development of research in Ecuador?

Although institutions like CEDIA support research in Ecuador, in this field we are still very backward. Universities are focused basically on professional training and no importance is given to the generation of new science and innovation. There are no national laboratories equivalent to those in the United States such as NASA, or Los Alamos, among others. The culture of most citizens in relation to research is almost nil. The typical phrase that I listen to all the time as a scientific researcher is: "but science is useless". People do not appreciate or are aware that scientific research, technology, and innovation are the only engine of development and survival of human beings and society in general. They have allowed us to fly, reach the moon, do organ transplants, have telecommunications, cell phones, computers, etc.

For these reasons, from the Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group, INSPIRE was born as a response to the emergence of the Ecuadorian and Latin American society for the increase of scientific, technological, and innovation research, and for the inclusion of these as a work option.

How do you see yourself in the next five years?

I see myself dedicated entirely to the production of state-of-the-art, world-class scientific research, continuing with publications in the best scientific journals in the world and winning research projects such as CEPRA-CEDIA nationally and internationally. I see myself leading the Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group and INSPIRE, and making them grow and contribute with science, technology and innovation for Ecuador, Latin America and the world. I see us being the best, being worldwide leaders of the fields we operate in as scientists.

Before your participation, had you heard about CEDIA?

Indeed. With INSPIRE and the Theoretical & Computational Mechanics Group we have access to, and since March of this year we have been using the, computational capabilities of CEDIA (HPC) to run our codes programmed in C++ and parallelized, for the computational simulation of granular composites. At this moment we continue to proceed with great success and we are entering into the new CUDA technology of CEDIA’s HPC.

What do you think about the organizations that support the development of research and academia in Ecuador?

Being the creator and founder of one of these organizations (INSPIRE), I am convinced that they are not only necessary, but indispensable for the fundamental basis on which the development of our country rests and grows, to be part of the first world. Scientific research, technology, and innovation are the only answer and solution for society, humanity, and for our country to face its problems, challenges, and evils.

Finally, could you send a message for researchers to participate in Red CEDIA invites?

I encourage researchers of Ecuador to accept the challenge, get excited, contribute, and generate ideas, solutions, trends, and sources of employment related to science; help us develop Ecuador, the planet, humanity, and continue generating high quality science and a scientific culture in our country.