To increase awareness of the achievements of Young Engineering Geologists worldwide, we will be posting interviews with emerging Young Engineering Geologists, and what better way to start than with the incoming YEG Committee Chair Stratis Karantanellis. Stratis is a PhD candidate at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, specialising in landslide management with computer vision and machine learning techniques. His main research interests are Engineering Geology, landslides and rockfalls, photogrammetric and LiDAR applications, and rock and soil mechanics. In his interview he shares experiences that have inspired him to become an engineering geologist and provides some great advice for other YEG’s ‘Don’t stop learning; Be flexible’.
How and why did you get interested in engineering geology?
Engineering geology constitutes a broad field with many specialties. Creative work in engineering geology is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, trains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks, thoughts from development of code, fancy equipment on expensive platforms, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut. The engineering geologist takes up the history of the earth, at the point where the rest of the sciences leave it and carries it further back into remote antiquity. When I began my studies, it was the field that immediately attracted me.
Where and when did you obtain your undergraduate degree and, if appropriate, your graduate degree(s)?
My bachelor’s degree is in Engineering Geology and Environmental Geology in the department of Geology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. My MSc studies have been concentrated in Geology Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing domain for disaster risk management at the University of Twente, ITC institute, Netherlands. My PhD research has focused mainly on the investigation of close-range Remote Sensing and machine learning algorithms for mass movement detection and characterization in site-specific scales.
Who have/has been your most inspiring mentor/supervisor?
As a researcher you understand that testing, questioning, and critique are better than general assumptions. Reflection and critical thinking are integral characteristics of academia. Personal and professional development requires a productive mentor. While I’ve had several great mentors, the most influential has been Professor Vasileios Marinos.
Prof. Marinos was the person who inspired my passion for engineering geology during my undergraduate studies and who has positively influenced me as a human being and a researcher. Although officially his role was as a supervising professor during my Bachelor and PhD Studies, he also served a bigger role as a mentor and we would discuss a variety of other topics without judgment or impatience. Mentoring or coaching is about much more than just directing someone what to do – it requires working closely with students to make decisions, solve problems and develop skills. I truly learned a lot from him, and he inspired me to become a professional Engineering Geologist. He set the bar high for mentorship and I strive to live by his example with people under my supervision.
If you did a thesis, what was your thesis topic?
My PhD thesis is focused on fusion of Object-Based Remote Sensing methods with Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning methods for mass movement detection and characterization.
With what companies/organizations did you (have you) worked?
Since my undergraduate studies, I have been involved in different projects with a multitude of clients from local authorities and NGOs to Institutes and Universities. I have learned many lessons on this enjoyable and challenging ride. Adopt a beginner’s mind and continue to push the limits; Don’t stop learning; Be flexible. I’ve found in my life that the best and only way to achieve our dreams is by taking action. Planning and discussing are valuable parts of a process, but without action, cannot produce results.
What are your main areas of interest within engineering geology?
As mentioned earlier Engineering Geology has many different alternative paths to explore. From structural analysis and laboratory experiments to the integration of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision to better understand earth surface processes. The latter has been less explored in the field of Engineering Geology and, in my opinion, has tremendous potential to improve our field, thus, this is the topic that currently peaks my interest. My goal is to help answer the question of “how can bridge the gap between engineering geology and computer vision to provide a better future?”.
What were (have been) the most memorable projects you’ve been involved with?
During my studies, I have been involved in a variety of diverse and interesting projects, but there was one that stands out. We had been involved in rockfall assessment in Palestine region. The overall experience of in-situ visits for data collection had been tricky given existing tensions in the territory. Local police thoroughly investigated all the equipment we had working with, and at one point our entire team was interrogated regarding the purpose of the investigation and the need for each specific piece of equipment. Despite the language barrier, we were able to explain our purpose and they allowed us to go. Those situations are the ones that shape you as a human being and in later stages as a professional Engineering Geologist.
Have you been in IAEG or your local young group?
Since receiving my bachelor’s degree, I have been involved at a local level with the IAEG NG in Greece. During the last few years, I have been a member of the Young Engineering Geologist committee of IAEG where I was recently appointed as the YEG-IAEG Chair. As Chair, I would like to see YEG plays a pivotal role in diffusing and promoting Engineering Geological domain all around the world. Our goal is to bring together, a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, engineers, geologists, and scientists from all over the world to exchange break-through ideas relating to Engineering Geological domain and related applications.
Have you won any awards (honours) for your technical achievements or your contributions to your profession? If so, what were they? Any other notable achievements?
I have been awarded as the Best Young Scientist paper during UAV-g, ISPRS GeoSpatial Week (GSW) 2019 that took place at University of Twente (Enschede, The Netherlands). This meant a lot to me personally as the main topic of the entire conference was photogrammetry and remote sensing, two things I am very passionate about for engineering geological applications.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I can wait for life to shape me in whatever manner it chooses. Or I can shape myself to make life whatever I choose. If you have ever run a long-distance race you should be able relate to what I am trying to say. With every step you take you realise the importance of persistence. It may sound cheesy, but it is through our failures that miracles occur. Opportunities will come knocking on your door, I promise. And always think outside of the box, that’s where the answers tend to be.
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