STEM Shoutout: Dr. Jose Cerrato

Engineering Professor selected for Fulbright award in Spain

Dr. Jose Cerrato, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, has been selected for a Fulbright award to Spain to study the detection of arsenic.

The Fulbright Program is devoted to increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

“If it wasn’t for this Fulbright award I wouldn’t have the opportunity to share in this cultural exchange in Spain or to meet my collaborators in person,” he said.

Dr. Cerrato’s research is focused on the biogeochemical processes at the interface of water and energy that affect the cycle of metals and radionuclides in the environment.

“I’d like to know how metals occur and move in the environment so that we can understand what risks they pose to human health, and also, how to remediate them, how to treat metals found in  contaminated sites,” Cerrato said.

During the program, Dr. Cerrato will be collaborating with a group of scholars, including Dr. Juan M. Feliu from the University of Alicante. Their collaborative research will focus on developing knowledge and understanding of methods to detect arsenic in water.

“The overall goal is to develop [electrochemical] sensors for detection of arsenic in water,” Cerrato said.

Tybur Casuse, PhD student co-advised with Professor Fernando Garzon, who was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship two years ago, will also be traveling to Spain. Dr. Cerrato thinks this will be a great training opportunity for Casuse and also for scientists from UNM to build collaboration with Dr. Feliu’s group of electrochemists.

“My hope is not only that we get to go there, but eventually we can organize another trip where we can have anyone from Alicante come to the University of New Mexico and really build this collaboration over the long-term,” Cerrato said.

“As we do this, of course there will be scientific exchange, but there is also a goal of exchanging knowledge to leverage our individual expertise and develop collective projects,” Cerrato said. He believes both universities can benefit from this program due to New Mexico having contaminated sites with metal speciation, and the knowledge that University of Alicante has in electrochemistry.

Cerrato’s plan is to go from mid-April to July of 2021 with his whole family. He also hopes to get to know the culture and city of Alicante.

Once he comes back to UNM, his “immediate plan would be to help Casuse in his PhD research. The research we plan to complete in Alicante […] can result in at least one peer review publication. […] I also hope we can pursue some collaborative grants between the University of Alicante and the University of New Mexico,” Dr. Cerrato said.