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Faculty Rockstar: Maria Jacome

Maria Jacome, Ph. D., P. Geo

Professor: Civil Engineering Technology Program | Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology (FAST)

Photo of Maria

Humber College’s pioneering research project, funded by an Engage grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), supported by Humber Research & Innovation, has won the PEO (Professional Engineers Ontario) York Chapter 2020 Engineering Research Project of the Year Award – 3rd place. Professor Maria Jacome led the research project in collaboration with ATOMS Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto and in partnership with DGI Geoscience Inc. We take immense pride in congratulating Maria Jacome on this achievement as a successful researcher. Her diligent contributions to the research community are pushing the boundaries for excellence in research and innovation. She continues to inspire, lead and motivate other women into the STEM fields.

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The annual PEO Engineering Project of the Year Award acts as York Chapter’s platform to build new or deepen existing relationships with high-tech companies and related businesses in the region and ultimately highlight the engineering profession in the community.

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Here is a brief synopsis of the project:


Numerical Modeling of Fluids Migration in a Sanitary Landfill, by Combining Geophysical and Gas Emission Data


Aquifers are one of the main supplies of drinking water in most Ontario communities. Landfills have a significant impact on public health and safety, which is why they require close monitoring. Conventional methods used to monitor landfill gas (LFG) and contaminated groundwater are costly, time-consuming and provide limited information. An alternative methodology has been developed to fully characterize groundwater contamination sources that uses subsoil 3D electrical conductivity images and quantifies the complex synergy between methane surficial emissions and leachate accumulations at depth. This low-cost, time-effective, and non-invasive methodology provides reliable tools for choosing prevention, mitigation, and remediation strategies.

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Professor Maria Jacome states, “I wanted to reinvent my research background in geophysics and apply acquired knowledge and expertise to the civil engineering and environmental industry. I am so glad that this project got its due recognition. It was successful due to the collaborative efforts of all parties involved, including the student/research assistants from Humber and the University of Toronto.” Maria envisions and hopes to expand the research project to a national level targeting other landfill sites in the future.

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Background & Expertise

 

photo of Maria working in the field

Maria’s field of expertise spans integrating surface and borehole seismic data with geological information for oil/gas and mining exploration, as well as environmental/civil engineering studies and applied exploration geophysics.

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Professor Maria acquired a Bachelor of Science in Geophysical Engineering from the Simon Bolivar University (USB), Venezuela, in 1994. She pursued a Ph. D. in Earth Sciences from the University of Liverpool, UK, in 2001, on a full scholarship from USB. Maria humbly expresses her gratitude for what she shares as one of her most significant accomplishments thus far, and Maria declares, “I got to travel all around Europe, meet interesting people from different cultures and backgrounds and fully immerse myself in a diverse environment. Acquisition of English as a second language was yet another contributing factor to my success. It was great!” Maria continued to teach undergraduate and graduate courses at USB related to seismic interpretation, basin analysis and geophysical modelling. It has been over a decade since Maria immigrated to Canada, reinventing herself as a Geophysicist Consultant with several corporations. However, her passion for teaching and research led her to Humber College in 2015 as Professor of Civil Engineering Technology Program at FAST. She has also taught at Seneca College from 2012-2016.

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Additionally, Maria is also working with a team of faculty members, who have been entrusted with building the curriculum for three new engineering degree programs. Maria shares, “Humber College will soon be offering three new Bachelor of Engineering degrees: Information Systems, Mechatronics and The Built Environment. Right now, we are finalizing the curriculum development for the first year/cohort, developing the labs, manuals, basically building it up from scratch. Each degree is designed to meet the accreditation requirements of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). It is a really exciting time to be at Humber.”

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Research & Applied Research

During her tenure with the Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela, Maria conducted and led several geological research projects in the field of oil/gas and mining. She was awarded the Best Researcher of the Year two years in a row at USB. She has published a series of papers in peer-reviewed journals on integrated seismic data and gravity modelling.

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In addition to the aforementioned award-winning research project, Maria Jacome contributed her expertise on the following two research projects in the recent past:

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1. 2019: Determine water quality parameters at a Water Management Pond located at Humber College, in collaboration with Toronto & Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and

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2. 2018: Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to determine possible underground utilities at the Healing Garden site at Humber College, collaborating with TRCA.

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Maria has supervised more than 15 technical projects in environmental remediation and site assessments and geotechnical studies. She has supervised more than 30 undergraduate projects and more than ten graduate projects in geophysics. She has also been invited to guest lecture at renowned institutions, like EAL (Erhvervsakademiet Lillebaelt), Denmark, in 2017, to lecture and share experiences related to the environmental remediation technologies used by the construction industry in Canada and Denmark.

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Rendezvous

Maria Jacome’s enthusiastic and positive personality shone through during our discussion. She proudly states that despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, 2020 was a productive year and targets were met through cross-collaboration with other faculty members, amplified by contributions of commendable student/research assistants whom she had the pleasure of mentoring.

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We thank our Researcher Rockstar Maria Jacome for her valuable contributions in academia and research, and we look forward to supporting her with future research projects. This is what Maria had to say about her involvement with Humber’s research community:

I had a great experience working with the Humber Research & Innovation team. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with an incredible group of people that delivered professional, committed, and reliable responses to all the challenges we faced during the different stages of the project.”

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We asked Maria, “Why Research?” She was quick to reflect on her time as a student and replied, “the best memories I have are those of actual fieldwork; putting theory to the test in real-life situations. I believe it is a very similar experience for my students. There are primarily three objectives that drive me to research: to stay abreast of new trends and technologies in geophysics, motivate and engage my students in real-world scenarios, and continue to embrace research as an important part of the teaching and learning process. Research projects provide great classroom material for further analysis and interpretation.”

“When you expose students to real-world situations that are relevant to their field of study, you not only see them intellectually involved, but you also see their body language change, you see a visible and positive shift in their input and engagement with the subject matter. I aim to encourage student researchers to think systematically and apply critical thinking and analytical skills.” – Maria Jacome

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One of the greatest joys of the teaching profession, according to Maria, is the feedback she continues to receive from ex-students. The sense of fulfilment and pride is unmatched, Maria shares, when students, who have embarked on their career journeys, reach out to thank and appreciate her role in their lives.

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We are sure you want to get to know Maria a little better. Here are 4 things you didn’t know about her, in her words:

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1. When I’m not at work: I am expressing my passion for life through the medium of dancing (Zumba every day),  practising yoga and spending time with my two daughters.

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2. A favourite book: “The Little Prince” novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Every time I read it, I discover something new, something profound!

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3. A website I visit most often: LinkedIn for work. Facebook to stay connected with family and the Zumba community.

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4. Coffee or Tea: Coffee, anytime!

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Research, and teaching, is my lifelong passion.” – Maria Jacome

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Does your company have a challenge that could be solved with research? Find out more about how to become a partner with Humber Research & Innovation here.