Dr. Mauricio Sepúlveda: “Time passes quickly when you do what you are passionate about”

Dr. Mauricio Sepúlveda: “Time passes quickly when you do what you are passionate about”

On the occasion of his 60th birthday, a group of former students organized a scientific event around the figure and trajectory of the CMM researcher of the U. de Chile and academic of the UdeC.

From France, where he is currently on sabbatical soon to end, Dr. Mauricio Sepúlveda Cortés referred to the event entitled ‘MASC+: Major Advances in numerical Schemes for Conservation laws + other topics’, organized around his research career by a group of specialists who once received the guidance of the outstanding scientist.

A Civil Engineer in Mathematics from the University of Chile and Doctor in Sciences from the École Polytechnique (Paris, France), Sepúlveda is currently a full professor in the Department of Mathematical Engineering of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Concepción (UdeC), a member of the Center for Research in Mathematical Engineering (CI²MA) and an associate researcher at the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile, where he is part of the group of specialists in Numerical Analysis of Partial Differential Equations (NA of PDEs).

MASC+’ will be held between Wednesday, September 6th and Friday, September 8th at the Hotel Nevados de Chillán (Pinto, Ñuble Region) and is organized by three of Prof. Sepúlveda’s former students, two of whom are currently members of the Faculty of Sciences of the Universidad del Bío-Bío (UBB): Dr. Aníbal Coronel Pérez (Department of Basic Sciences) and Dr. Verónica Anaya Domínguez (Department of Mathematics):

The third of the organizers is Dr. Rodrigo Véjar Asem, academic of the Department of Mathematics of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of La Serena. All of them obtained the highest academic degree in the Doctorate Program in Applied Sciences with mention in Mathematical Engineering of the UdeC, in 2004, 2011 and 2019, respectively.

The latter commented that “I was first a student of his in the Functional Analysis course of the PhD. It did not become so heavy, but I think it was because he took the time to answer what I asked him. I would often go to his office to get help with any questions I had. As I am not a mathematician by training, it was hard for me to keep up with my classmates” and “when it was time to choose my thesis work, Mauricio had the topics closest to my area of expertise (…) he is a person who knows a lot of mathematics and is a good mathematician. So much so that to this day I try to take advantage of that. He has also ventured to apply his knowledge to other areas of knowledge such as biology or physics. In that sense, I think he is an intellectually very complete person” and on a personal level, he affirms that “he has been with me in several more or less complex situations, both academic and non-academic, which I will not forget”.

Prof. Verónica Anaya said that “participating in the organization of this event is a way to show my gratitude and recognition to Prof. Mauricio for his guidance and support in my doctoral studies, in addition to recognizing his academic career” and adds that he is “a patient, empathetic person. He is always available to solve doubts and help with whatever you need”.

And Aníbal Coronel makes a similar analysis. “When I entered the doctoral program, I was interested in the subject of Finite Volumes, being him at that time the only academic of the doctoral program, who was doing research in this area. So I participated in an elective course that he dictated and in the development of this course, we began to talk about possible topics to develop in a future doctoral thesis,” he said.

“One of the first qualities that caught my attention,” the UBB academic explained, “was his serenity, as well as his willingness to answer my questions and concerns, no matter how basic they were.

“A second quality of Mauricio is his leadership, (…) I would like to emphasize that, since he observed my interest in the subject, he invited me to participate in the seminars and talks that he was invited to develop. Later, when he noticed that I had developed enough maturity, he invited me to participate in the projects under his responsibility. It is in this context that I got to know how to develop scientific research in the area”, he added.

Professor Mauricio Sepúlveda recognizes that the organization of this event took him by surprise, but he values it enormously, above all, “coming from former students, today very productive and independent colleagues, that one has seen how they have been formed and evolved, forming their own academic and scientific, besides being people that I appreciate very much. It is very flattering”.

The researcher has permanently stood out for his scientific productivity, always positioning himself in an advanced position in the national ranking prepared by the National Agency for Research and Development, ANID (DataCiencia), and in this respect he said that “there is no formula, just work hard, take advantage of the ability and taste for mathematics and what has been learned from experience, such as the importance of setting goals and focusing on work”.

Mentors and background

The scientist explains that he discovered his passion for this area of knowledge very early on. “I knew since high school that I wanted to study something with mathematics, but I still wasn’t clear whether I wanted to dedicate myself to it in a more applied way as an engineer or more scientific in academia,” he said. Eventually, things took their own path and he ended up pursuing a doctorate in this area of knowledge.

“From a point of view of gratitude,” said Dr. Sepúlveda, “of people who have passed through my academic life, when I entered the University of Chile in ’81, the first professor I had was Eduardo Engel, a great person and great mathematician, who later dedicated himself to economics, but motivated me with algebra and reinforced the fact of studying a career in mathematics; and later in the career, who seduced me academically was Carlos Conca, with whom I later did my degree memory.”

“Thanks to Carlos Conca I got a scholarship to study in France, I was very motivated, and in that sense, Carlos’ help was fundamental. There, I personally met many professors who, in Chile, we had as references because of their books, eminences that I also appreciated very much because, at some point in my career, I felt their support. I am referring in particular to François Murat, Pierre-Arnaud Raviart, Jean-Claude Nedelec, among others”, he added.

During his postdoctoral stay at the University of Heidelberg, Professor Sepúlveda met in Germany the then director of the Department of Mathematical Engineering of UdeC, Gabriel N. Gatica, who was visiting the University of Stuttgart. Professor Gatica first invited him to participate in a French-Chilean congress of the specialty in Concepción (1995) and then told him that there was an open competition at UdeC.

“I found that once it was a good place and although, in principle, I wanted to return to Santiago, I thought it was a good offer and, when I saw the University of Concepción, I liked it very much, I found it very nice and I already knew that the numerical analysis team -which was my specialty- was quite strong here in Concepción”, he said.

Later, in a process of natural growth, would come the conformation of basal projects and the awarding of funding for instances such as the CMM of the U. de Chile and the CI²MA of the UdeC, “led by Gabriel Gatica and we accompanied him as founders of the center”, he said.

For him, belonging to these research groups has been “a very good experience, interesting, knowing that one is in a strong group of numerical analysis gives the opportunity to train people through the doctorate, in addition to memoirists of the career of Civil Mathematical Engineering and, through visiting professors and the opportunity to have postdoctoral fellows, the CI²MA is conformed as a training and research center, essentially”.


Projections and the frontier of knowledge

“Time goes by fast when you do what you are passionate about. I feel I still have a lot to do,” Sepúlveda said.

It is precisely in this search for new challenges that this year he decided to move to the Mathematics and Applied Informatics Laboratory (MaIAGE) of INRAE de Jouy in Josas, a research center of the Université Paris-Saclay (France) where he collaborated with Beatrice Laroche, Romain Yvinec and Frédérique Clément in the framework of the Anaconda-Inria project “on several models on which we apply inverse problems in a new laboratory essentially of biology, but which has a unit of applied mathematics in which I am collaborating”, he detailed.

The scientist said that the models he has been working on at INRAE de Jouy in Josas are related, for example, “with the formation of cells in the small intestine, which follows a population dynamics, related to equations in partial derivatives” and, with another French research group of INRIA-Saclay and INRAE Val de Loire, he has collaborated in the study of “the formation of cells in the small intestine, which follows a population dynamics, related to equations in partial derivatives” and, with another French research group of INRIA-Saclay and INRAE Val de Loire, he has collaborated in the study of “a model of ovogenesis in fish, on the one hand, and, on the other, of adipocytes related to the evolution of adipose cells in mammals, which are also population dynamics equations in which I am interested in the inverse problems associated with them”.

By Iván Tobar Bocaz, CMM-Concepción communications.

Posted on Sep 4, 2023 in News