Humanitarian engineering

Caetano Dorea works on basic sanitation projects in poor regions or areas devastated by war or natural disasters

Personal ArchiveCaetano Dorea has an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, but his projects extend well beyond the management and planning of structures such as dams, buildings and viaducts. Since he graduated he has been crisscrossing the world, traveling mainly to poor regions or areas destroyed by war or natural disasters to prevent disease through basic sanitation projects in partnerships with universities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Dorea began his undergraduate studies at the University of Brasília (UnB) in 1994. One year later he transferred to the University of Kansas in the United States, where he studied for two years. He returned to Brazil in 1997. Upon completing his undergraduate work in 1999, he went to England to earn a master’s degree and PhD at the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at the University of Surrey with a grant from the British Council. He studied solutions for supplying water in humanitarian emergencies, one of the center’s lines of research. He developed a simplified system for treating water using lamellar plate settling, and British NGO Oxfam is now implementing it in South Sudan in Africa, where 45% of the people have no access to sources of drinking water. At the time, Oxfam was working on projects in a partnership with the University of Surrey.

Dorea worked with NGOs throughout his master’s and PhD studies in regions affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts. “We attempted to establish analysis parameters to measure water quality, train local technicians and implement methods to treat water and dispose of human waste,” he explains.

In 2006 Dorea began a post-doctoral internship at the Canadian Ministry of Health research laboratories. Eighteen months later, he returned to Europe as a professor in the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Glasgow in Scotland. During that period, he won the German Ministry of Education and Research Green Talents award for setting up a research center at the university in Scotland that develops new environmental sanitation technologies.

He returned to Canada in 2011, this time as a professor at the Laval University Department of Civil and Hydraulic Engineering in Quebec City. In early 2017 he transferred to the University of Victoria in the Canadian city of the same name, where he is working on designing a new civil engineering program that focuses on environmental and sustainability issues.

Dorea worked with Brazilian researchers even while he was abroad. In  2013, with the Federal University of Rondônia, he worked on environmental sanitation projects to improve the health conditions of people living near the Madeira River. “I enjoy working in the field,” he says. “I would have liked to study medicine, but I ended up in engineering. Even so, my work is related to public health,” he adds. The project ended in 2016, but collaborations continue with student exchanges. He has also co-authored articles and serves as co-advisor for master’s and PhD students.