Dr Susan Bernal Lopez

BEng (Cum Laude), DEng (Cum Laude), FIMMM

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Job title: University Academic Fellow (Assistant Professor)
Division: School of Civil Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Tags: Fellowship: Early Career Fellowship, Researcher, University of Leeds
Related theme: Engineering LWEC


Susan is a University Academic Fellow (Assistant Professor) in Cementitious Materials at The University of Leeds, and her research focuses on the development, characterisation and exploitation of advanced and non-traditional cement and concrete technologies for sustainable infrastructure. 

Your Fellowship

My Fellowship research focuses on the design, characterisation and assessment of one of the most promising low-carbon candidates that can be used in place of Portland cement, to produce sustainable and durable concretes. These materials, called alkali-activated cements, can offer carbon emissions savings of 40-80% compared to Portland cement, when used to make a concrete with similar or better performance. However, despite this potential, the performance of alkali-activated materials in the field is unproven, and the processes that are now used for their production face challenges that need to be resolved for future-proofing this technology. So, research is urgently required to demonstrate that these materials can be produced by sustainable processes using highly available resources, and then serve well under challenging conditions, over periods of decades or more. The central aim of my Fellowship research is to provide the scientific basis for the use of the UK's natural resources, as well as by-products from other industries such as the production and processing of metals, to produce high-performance, high-durability alkali-activated concretes using conventional and/or novel manufacturing processes. To achieve this, state of the art materials characterisation techniques will be used to make connections between the way these low-carbon cements are produced, and their performance - moving the understanding 'from atoms to applications'. This research is highly timely and important because it opens a new pathway to building sustainable and resilient infrastructure in the UK and worldwide. 

What motivated you to apply for the Fellowship?

An EPSRC fellowship was the ideal avenue to develop long-term, truly advanced and transformative research to enable a low energy transition in the construction sector, which is the main motivation of my research. Also, the Fellowship enables me to devote the time and energy required for the development of innovative research, while balancing family life. 

How do you think your career can benefit from having the Fellowship?

My EPSRC Fellowship will enable me to become an independent research leader and will strengthen my position as an international trailblazer in the field of novel cements and concretes. My EPSRC Fellowship builds from my previous experience of developing and characterising novel cements and concretes, and will allow me to make significant advances that will facilitate the development and adoption of sustainable construction materials.