Research opportunities draw Fidalgo to MU
Research opportunities drew Maria Fidalgo to the U.S. from her native Argentina to study at Rice University, and she was drawn to a faculty position at the University of Missouri for the same reason.
Fidalgo joined the faculty of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in January as an associate professor after nine years at the Instituto Tecnologico de Buenos Aires (ITBA), where she received her bachelor’s in chemical engineering in 1995. She also holds master’s and doctorate degrees from Rice University in civil and environmental engineering.
After nearly a decade back in her home country, the timing was right to make a return to the U.S. to take on more of a research-based role.
“I wanted to focus more on research, so I started looking at other possibilities, and one possibility was going to the U.S.,” she said.
The environmental engineering bug took hold early in Fidalgo’s college career. While hearing about improvements and technologies in the chemical engineering field, her mind wandered to how they affected the environment and ways to make them more sustainable. That drive led her to do her own research despite the lack of a cohesive environmental engineering program at ITBA at the time, then to Rice where she could make it her focus.
“You think, ‘OK, maybe the next challenge will be doing this in a sustainable way,’” Fidalgo said. “And so, I started looking at more the environmental part and the environmental impact.”
Environmental engineering also provides many interdisciplinary opportunities, and those collaborations are one of the things Fidalgo said she’s enjoyed most in her brief time at MU. The nature of the field has allowed her to bounce seamlessly between civil and chemical engineering, among others.
“I really like it because of all the opportunities for interacting with other departments,” Fidalgo said. “It’s a really big change from what I had. It was perfect for (this) point in my career.”
Currently, Fidalgo is working to improve ceramics as a water filtration system, including how the ceramics can react chemically to further counteract contaminants and how to improve their use as sensors. She’ll begin her teaching work in the fall with a class entitled “Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting all these great Mizzou undergraduate students and hopefully making them eager to work in a lab and forwarding their careers,” she said.