Student Spotlight – Alvaro Amezquita Vaca, RMIT

As SmartCrete continues to announce various projects we will develop a profile on university students to showcase the projects they are working on and how they align with SmartCrete objectives and the concrete industry.

We are delighted to publish our very first student profile on Alvaro Amezquita Vaca from RMIT.

We talked to Alvaro about the project he is currently working on and how it is relevant to the concrete world.

Alvaro, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your career background, education, hobbies and interests?

I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia My grandfather was a great civil engineer and I decided to follow his legacy and study bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Escuela Colombiana de Ingenieria Julio Garavito in Bogotá, Colombia. I gained experience working as an Assistant Engineer and was later promoted to Resident Engineer. I then travelled to Australia where I completed my master’s degree in Civil Engineering at RMIT University in Melbourne. I am currently completing a PhD in Civil Engineering under the supervision of Professor Rebecca Gravina. This program allows me to deepen my knowledge and learn how engineering is practised in Australia. When I’m not working on the PhD, I enjoy running, reading historical novels, and travelling.

Please describe the project you’re working on and when you joined.

Initially, I joined RMIT in 2019 when I started my master’s degree. Once I finished it, I continued my studies with the PhD which I have been doing since August 2021. My study is part of the SmartCrete CRC research program. The project is called FTP2 – Recycled Waste in Concrete for Municipal Applications. I’m investigating how to reuse domestic and industrial waste as raw materials to develop concrete with recycled material content suitable for municipal pavement applications.

What are the objectives for this project, including timing and milestones?

In total, the project must be completed in 3 years. It focuses on the requalification of the waste material problem by finding alternative solutions in the concrete construction industry. The project will deliver a mix ensuring green star rating and satisfactory performance in terms of workability, mechanical properties, and durability.

What has your success to date been?

Perseverance and discipline have been what has led me to accomplish many achievements. Regarding the project, I am still in the early stages, but the testing plan has been already set up and will begin soon.

What have been the challenges?

At the moment, the biggest challenge has been the logistics required for the project’s testing plan. Many different samples and tests are required, as well as gathering all the materials so it’s ready for use.

What do you enjoy most about this project?

What I enjoy the most is that I am expanding my knowledge of concrete, not only theoretically, but the chance to go to the laboratory and test different mix designs. Also, I have had the opportunity to engage in activities I have not done before, such as setting up the testing plan for the project. In general, undertaking a PhD is challenging. However, I’m excited that I’m building the necessary skills to become an independent researcher.

Do you have opportunities to connect with other students who are engaging in similar projects either with SmartCrete or elsewhere?

Yes, I have had the opportunity to connect with another doctoral student who is also doing their research in concrete. This has been great because I can learn a bit about their work as well as share experiences that can enrich our research.

What does this project mean to the concrete world and the impact on concrete research?

I’m looking forward to the results that I will obtain from this research because I’m convinced that it will positively impact the concrete industry. This research will show that domestic and industrial waste as concrete aggregates is feasible for municipal pavement applications. The delivered mix will not only have excellent workability, mechanical and durability performance; it will also have environmental advantages. Finding a different use for these types of residues will help support a circular economy.