Jan. 5, 2024

Schulich postdoctoral associate receives engineering award in Mexico

Life experience helps shape Cuauhtémoc T. Vidrio-Sahagún's educational journey
Cuauhtémoc T. Vidrio-Sahagún
Cuauhtémoc T. Vidrio-Sahagún accepts the Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles del Estado de Jalisco (CICEJ) Enrique Dau Flores Distinction.

You can only imagine the anticipation being felt by Dr. Cuauhtémoc T. Vidrio-Sahagún as he boarded his flight from Canada to Mexico. 

A postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, he was returning home to receive the Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles del Estado de Jalisco (CICEJ) Enrique Dau Flores Distinction. 

It’s the highest award to be handed out by the College of Civil Engineers in his home country, which Vidrio-Sahagún, PhD’22, officially received at a ceremony in November. 

“It was truly motivational because it indicates that our research endeavours hold significance and are valued by the civil engineering community,” he says. “Ultimately, our goal is to go beyond simply developing novel approaches and contribute meaningfully to improving societal welfare.” 

Vidrio-Sahagún hopes the recognition will help shed a light on the work that’s needed to be done around extreme hydrological events in a changing world. 

A passion for water 

The child of two university professors who were also engineers, Vidrio-Sahagún grew up in a part of Mexico that has seen many water shortages and a lack of infrastructure, as well as flooding. 

In high school, he represented his country in science and engineering Olympiads with a project about sustainable water use in the Mexican city of Autlán de Navarro. 

Vidrio-Sahagún says his experiences helped fuel his interest and passion for water resources. 

He earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at the University of Guadalajara before he came to Canada in September 2017, receiving his PhD in civil engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering. 

Straight from the heart 

As he developed his PhD thesis, Vidrio-Sahagún knew it had to be about a topic close to his heart and one that has become a focal point in our world: extreme hydrological events in a changing world. 

“Water-related extreme events are exacerbated due to climate change and other human-induced impacts on the Earth system,” he says.  

“However, risk assessments and decision-making often assume that past statistics represent the present and future, overlooking the changing nature of hydrological systems.” 

Vidrio-Sahagún set out to write a thesis on improving our ability to predict changing hydrological extremes. He developed new ways of modelling extremes, measuring uncertainty, and using innovative approaches, such as looking at everyday events to understand how extremes are changing under, for example, climate change.  

He says the finished product opens the doors for several lines of research focus. 

The impact made at Schulich 

Vidrio-Sahagún says studying at Schulich provided him with the resources he needs to be a successful student and researcher. 

He credits the dedicated faculty for his award, and singles out his supervisor, Dr. Jianxun (Jennifer) He, PhD’10, who he says introduced him to statistical hydrology. 

“Dr. He encouraged me to shape my own research path,” Vidrio-Sahagún says. “I learned to frame real-world relevant questions and develop creative approaches to address existing challenges.” 

Vidrio-Sahagún is now working as a postdoctoral associate under Dr. Alain Pietroniro, PhD, and is hopeful to one day become a university professor himself. 

“I am passionate about conducting research, teaching and mentoring the next generation of professionals and scholars,” he says. “I aspire to establish a research group focused on hydrological extremes that meaningfully address existing critical challenges.” 

Vidrio-Sahagún says his ultimate goal is to contribute to enhancing our understanding and modelling of extreme water-related events, while fostering the creation of more resilient and safer communities.