Meet David León, an accomplished geotechnical engineer with degrees in civil and geotechnical engineering from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. With over six years of experience in consulting, primarily within hydroelectric and mining projects, David is now part of the FRONTIErS project, where he’s delving into the numerical modelling of monopile installation using the Particle Finite Element Method. In this interview, David shares his motivations, aspirations, and insights on the importance of collaboration in the success of FRONTIErS DN.

Can you provide a brief introduction of yourself and your project within the FRONTIErS DN?

My name is David León. I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I have over 6 years of experience in consulting geotechnical engineering, mainly in hydroelectric and mining projects.

In the FRONTIErS project, I will be working in the numerical modelling of installation of monopile driving using the Particle Finite Element Method.

What motivated you to apply to FRONTIErS DN?

As a geotechnical engineer with several years’ experience in the energy sector, I recognize the need to promote renewable energies. Therefore, it is very encouraging to have the opportunity to improve the knowledge of foundations for offshore wind turbine (OWT) and to contribute to the further development of this sector.

What drives your passion for the work you have done so far and the work you will do within FRONTIErS?

I love using numerical models and programming to solve real-world geomechanical problems. From this experience, I recognize the importance of developing advanced constitutive models and robust algorithms to solve geotechnical large deformation problems, a field in which I look forward to contributing within FRONTIErS.

How do you believe collaboration enhances the effectiveness of FRONTIErS DN?

I think that one of the most important factors for the success of a research project is networking and collaboration. In the specific case of FRONTIErS, the opportunity of having a network that includes projects with laboratory tests, field tests, physical modelling and numerical modelling, which will allow to decrease the uncertainty of the results.

Can you share any personal stories or experiences that have shaped your decision to apply?

Since I finished my master’s degree, the idea of doing a PhD was on my mind but I’d been putting this off because I could not find a project that motivated me. As soon as I read about the FRONTIErS project, in which both academics and industry would be involved to enhance the knowledge of foundations for OWT, I realized that this was what I had been waiting for.

What are your future goals and aspirations as a member of the FRONTIErS DN?

As a member of the FRONTIErS network, I hope to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become a successful researcher who can work in both industry and academia, and at the same time contribute to the knowledge of the foundations of OWTs to make these structures safer.

How do you envision your role evolving and contributing to the FRONTIErS DN success?

Achieving a correct simulation of the installation of driven piles will allow for improving the current design methodologies, making these structures affordable and safer, allowing the development of this sector.

How do you anticipate your MSCA fellowship will impact your broader career aspirations?

For me, the MSCA fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it allows me to be part of a multinational research network with several world-leading universities and experts in different topics. Which I believe will change the way I approach and solve general problems and give me enough tools to succeed in either a professional or academic career.

What message or key takeaway would you like to convey to the public about FRONTIErS?

Offshore wind farms are more efficient than other renewable energy source, such as onshore wind farms and solar farms. Therefore, the project FRONTIErS, which aims to improve knowledge on the foundations of Offshore Wind Turbines – OWT, is a key project for the decarbonization and energy transition.

Can you provide insights or advice for individuals interested in pursuing similar programs and fellowships?

After 6+ years in the industry, I gained an important insight into real geotechnical problems. At the same time, I identified the problems that I was passionate about, so I decided to start a PhD, which I am confident is one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. So, if you have research aspirations after some time working in the industry Go ahead! It is never too late to start a PhD… But keep in mind that research is a long and sometimes rough journey, it is essential you choose a topic that you are truly passionate about.

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