Jan. 26, 2024

Schulich master’s candidate earns prestigious asphalt industry scholarship

Diana Aparicio looks to become international pavement-engineering expert
Diana Aparicio Gutierrez
Diana Aparicio was recently named the winner of the Canadian Technical Asphalt Association graduate scholarship. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

She has only been in Canada for six months, but Diana Aparicio is already paving the way to make an impact with her research.

A graduate student and master’s candidate at the Schulich School of Engineering, she is using her civil engineering background to work on asphalt technologies.

Aparicio, who came to Canada from Colombia, wants to become an expert in the field, focusing on the formulation of paving mixes that are strong, durable and environmentally friendly.

Her passion for the industry has caught the attention of the Canadian Technical Asphalt Association (CTAA), which has awarded her one of its renowned graduate scholarships.

“Receiving this prestigious scholarship serves as a vote of confidence in me to work even harder to help academic, industrial and government bodies to advance asphalt-recycling technologies,” Aparicio says. “It confirms that sustainable pavements are no longer optional but imperative around asphalt-related technologies, in accordance with the challenges our society faces.”

The scholarships were officially unveiled at the CTAA Conference Awards luncheon on Nov. 22.

Developing a formula for success

Aparicio is looking specifically at recycling old asphalt and adding it to new mixtures to create a new product for paving projects.

Recycled asphalt pavements (RAPs) are seen as an increasingly viable option for the industry to decrease raw materials extraction, while lowering its landfill waste and overall carbon footprint.

Materials like rejuvenators and softeners are now being added to maximize the use and effectiveness of RAPs, says Aparicio.

Diana Aparicio posed

Diana Aparacio

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The new mixtures are then put through a series of temperature and stress tests to find the best overall product.

“It is clear to me that, as pavement professionals, a lot still needs to be done,” she says. “It’s our duty to develop new technologies, providing solutions in both a technical and environmental context.”

An industry in need

Aparicio’s studies and research are being done alongside Dr. Martin Jasso, PhD’16, the Endowed Research Chair in Bituminous Materials.

An assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, Jasso has dedicated his career to finding the right combination of materials to handle Canada’s weather and heavy traffic. If the asphalt is too hard, cracks will appear; if it’s too soft, the road will deform, he says.

Road infrastructure is also one of the largest expenditures for municipal, provincial and federal governments, so having fewer roadway repair jobs in the future will be both economically and environmentally sustainable, Jasso says.

Working toward her dream job

Over the next couple of years, Aparicio is hoping to earn her master’s and already has a goal in mind.

 “It’s my dream to be come an expert in pavement engineering one day,” she says.

Aparicio hopes her international perspective will also help her become an influential and inspiring voice in the industry.

“I am sure my studies will prepare me to respond to the needs of my professional career and have a wider view of existing and emerging technologies for better decision-making,” she says. “I want to improve the engineering properties of pavements and use my knowledge to connect people through road infrastructure, provide innovative and viable solutions for the industry, and become part of the new pavement-engineering professional landscape in Canada.”

Learn more about past CTAA scholarship winners.

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