Salvador Acha, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Chemical Engineering

Salvador Acha

“I model and analyse how new technologies perform in buildings or in urban areas and then provide recommendations on how to maximise their impact or improve their performance, which is a very exciting line of work”.

I did my undergraduate engineering degree at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico and then an electrical engineering PhD at Imperial. I was very lucky in being able to secure scholarships to cover the costs, as a result of being dedicated in my studies and thanks to the example my family set at a young age.

I am an energy and sustainability researcher in the built environment, advising Sainsbury’s supermarkets on their Net Zero Strategy. This means that I model and analyse how new technologies perform in buildings or in urban areas and then provide recommendations on how to maximise their impact or improve their performance. This is a very exciting line of work as I advise a commercial organisation on how to become more sustainable and efficient in the way they use energy and other valuable resources. All advice needs to be practical, cost-effective, and replicable to ensure high impact, and converting technical expertise into sound practical advice is an art in itself!

The impact of my work has many dimensions. I get the chance to influence key decision-makers with real-world problems and support them in transforming their organisations into more sustainable businesses. Through publications I get to disseminate my expertise to a large audience of academics, industry specialists, and policy makers. In 2022 I was awarded the Imperial President’s Medal for Excellence in External Collaboration and Partnerships, in recognition of my extensive and impactful work with Sainsbury’s.

I also have the pleasure of supporting the upskilling of talented young engineers through teaching and supervision. Helping future engineers gain confidence in their capabilities and become successful professionals is very rewarding.

All of Imperial’s values resonate with me in my daily work, but the ones I pay particular attention to are respect and collaboration. These values are essential to creating a comfortable and productive work environment, as we need to work daily with colleagues to develop new ideas. By following these values, a virtuous cycle can begin that will drive integrity, innovation and excellence resulting in expertise and know-how for the benefit of society. I think that to ensure that these values permeate across Imperial we should encourage collaboration across faculties and departments. For example, at present I am supporting Imperial with its Sustainability Strategy, which has been a great vehicle to apply the Imperial values as I interact with a diverse group of people on crucial plans that will influence how the College addresses its environmental impact.

Professionally I am very enthusiastic about the potential and opportunities that the digitalisation of engineering services could have on my research area. Access to data and analytical tools can help us become better informed and make better decisions. My research will focus on developing digital toolkits and services that permeate our built environment, enhancing our infrastructure and enabling an energy transition to the wider economy. And personally, I am looking forward to becoming a parent this autumn, it will surely be a great and fun challenge to be a dad!

I have many interests and hobbies. I very much enjoy cooking and spending time with my family and friends. I like taking long walks, cycling, and exploring the outdoors. And I also love football very much, I am the former president of Mr Pentland Club ( a supporters group of Athletic Bilbao in London bringing a community together to share their football passion. I am on Twitter @DrSalvadorAcha.

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