Dr Almudena Sánchez de la Muela works as a researcher on Spain’s recovery and resilience plan, exploring energy storage. Having missed out on taking part in Soapbox Science in London when she was based in the UK, she decided to organise the first Soapbox Science event in Spain, alongside her colleague, Conchi Fernández Díez. The event will take place between 10.30am and 1.30pm on Saturday 17th June 2023 in the garden of La Fábrica de luz — Museo de la Energía, in Ponferrada, León, Spain.
“Soapbox Science is a perfect cocktail of topics that fascinate me — science, society, communication, education, and breaking boundaries!”
Energy transition for recovery and resilience
I studied geology at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, for my bachelor’s degree and since then my career has mostly been split between geophysics, the energy industry and academia. Whilst doing an MSc in Geological Processes and Resources, and for a further two years, I worked in the energy resources industry, processing and interpreting gravity and magnetic data.
My main duty was to use geophysical data to investigate the location of geological reservoirs of energy sources, such as oil and gas, accumulated underground. Then I became curious about working with active geological processes so for my PhD I studied the interaction of active faults and crustal fluids.
I approached this by analysing how seismic activity varies in space and time in a beautiful area of the South American volcanic arc. (Crustal fluids can usually include water and play a vital role in the processes that shape the earth’s crust, sometimes influencing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as well as the formation of ore deposits.)
After completing my PhD research at Birkbeck, University of London and UCL with the support of the London NERC DTP and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, I transitioned into the SENSE project as I joint the research and development area of CIUDEN. Here I investigated the micro-seismicity (faint earth tremors) that can be associated with the injection of CO2 into geological structures at depth, and I explored ways to improve micro-seismicity monitoring systems. These had the aim of assuring safe CO2 storage as a tool for climate change mitigation.
At the moment, I’m working on the launch of energy storage and green hydrogen production projects within Spain’s post-pandemic recovery and resilience plan, known as national RRP, delivered through NextGenerationEU.
My day-to-day routine entails a lot of computer-based work for processing data, reading up on the latest discoveries, and preparing project reports and presentations. Throughout my different roles, I have balanced these office tasks with geoscientific fieldwork, teaching, building collaborations, attending conferences, and conducting dissemination. In the last few months, I have been focused on learning about new technologies used to store energy and produce green hydrogen, together with running outreach activities.
Applying science to meet society’s needs
I decided to look into active tectonics in my PhD because it is the topic within geology that I have always been most interested in. The tectonic processes (relating to the Earth’s crust) happening during our lifetime are far more tangible (a rarity as far as geological processes go) and are quite frankly incredible. This current timeframe and level of activity, however, mean they are geological processes most associated with humanitarian disasters. Disasters that, I feel, could be mitigated. It is this need for action that has motivated my career so far.
I moved to study seismicity induced by industrial activities because I also enjoy bridging the gap between science and industry, as I believe this is the intersection where we can apply science to meet society’s needs. With this mindset, it was natural that I ended up getting involved in the launch of the Spanish energy transition projects, which I find really exciting and challenging at the same time.
Having an open mind and the ability to put things in perspective
I believe that having an open mind and the ability to put things in perspective are two of the main keys to life in all aspects. It is a matter of spectrum, the more we are open to new ways of thinking and experimenting, the broader the spectrum of opportunities we have to solve problems or find the tools we need. These can make all the difference in STEM, especially now that interdisciplinarity (where we work at the intersection of traditional methods to arrive at a new solution) is, fortunately, becoming more present.
A perfect cocktail of topics — science, society, communication, education and breaking boundaries!
Soapbox Science is a perfect cocktail of topics that fascinate me — science, society, communication, education, and breaking boundaries! I first heard about it while doing my PhD in London. I found the platform amazing, but I missed the opportunity to take part in the events in London. Then I moved to Spain and regretted that I was never able to gain the Soapbox Science experience. That’s how I came up with the plan to organise the very first Soapbox Science event in Spain! Plus the opportunity of doing it in El Bierzo (one of the work regions of the EU’s Just Transition Mechanism) with the support of my fabulous colleague, Conchi Fernández Díez, who has a lot of experience coordinating outreach projects, was ideal!
I am very excited about the event, which is being held in the garden of La Fábrica de luz — Museo de la Energía, in Ponferrada, León. We built a team of speakers spanning diverse career stages, research disciplines, institutions and outreach expertise!
Two PhD candidates will come to the event from the UK and Ireland, as well as senior researchers based at Ponferrada and León, and researchers from other cities in Spain. Some of the speakers are mostly used to presenting their work at expert forums, whilst others have broad experience in disseminating their projects in schools and via social media. This mix is a fantastic way of scientific networking, from pure academia to industrial sectors, so I am sure this will lead to successful events all over Spain in the coming years.
Support from the Womanthology community
Anyone interested in getting involved or sponsoring Soapbox Science Spain can contact us at email@example.com.
We’re always interested in speaking with those who share our interest in taking science communication to the people!