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CCEE grad student wins fellowship from Chilean National Research and Development Agency

Tomás Cuevas López

CCEE graduate student Tomás Cuevas López was awarded a fellowship from the Chilean National Research and Development Agency. The Beca de Magister en el Extranjero supports Chilean students pursuing master’s degrees abroad. Awarded students are requested to eventually return to Chile to apply the new knowledge to contribute to the scientific, academic, economic, social, and cultural development of the country.

“I was extremely happy when I realized I was awarded the scholarship,” said Cuevas López, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering. “It’s a great honor, especially because the competition is extremely tough.”

Out of the 605 students that applied for the scholarship, 128 were selected. Only two of the award recipients, including Cuevas López, are studying abroad in the U.S.

“Chile has four extremely good engineering schools, so every year, there is a larger number of students looking to continue their studies abroad,” Cuevas López said. ”Most of all fellowship programs of the Chilean government were canceled during the pandemic, and they were reopened this year. One of the reasons why I’m so happy with the award is because the extra funds will allow my two kids to have more fun while I’m at work.” 

Cuevas López is part of Dr. Casey Dietrich’s Coastal & Computational Hydraulics Team, conducting research related to the postprocessing of storm surge simulations and working on a tool for downscaling flooding maps. 

“The code increases the resolution of the maps from 100-200m to 15m or even less, and then extends the results horizontally until the maximum water level matches the ground level. This tool will give decision-makers more information during storms to plan or decide if evacuations are needed. In the second part of the research, we will try to develop a machine-learning algorithm capable of predicting the downscaled flooding map of a storm using the forecasts of the National Center of Hurricanes as input.” 

Cuevas López, who has worked as a project engineer for consulting firm PRDW since 2016, said the work aligns perfectly with his work experience in consultancy and the area he wants to specialize in. 

“I enjoy working with the combination of numerical modeling of coastal processes, geospatial analysis and programming,” he said.