Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I am Daniel Orellana and This is How I Work

Today, in the "This is How I work" I am interviewing Daniel Orellana. Daniel is a young researcher on Geographic Sciences interested in understanding the interactions among human societies and environment from a multidisciplinary approach. He has experience in theory and methods on Geographic Information Sciences applied to society-environment interactions. The diversity of universities and places where he studied (Ecuador, Spain, Netherlands) and his work and research experience
in places like the Galapagos Islands allowed himto gain a board perspective on both the technological and the social sides of the most recent advances in geographic sciences. Currently he is appointed as Principal Professor at Universidad de Cuenca, where he conducts research with two research groups: Water Resources and Sustainable Cities. His work has been published in several scientific journals and conferences as well as in technical magazines and books. He is convinced that solutions to environmental problems cannot be isolated from the human context, and combines scientific research and practice to envisage and implement novel solutions to those problems.


Current Job: Principal Professor at Universidad de Cuenca.
Current Location: Cuenca, Ecuador
Current mobile device: Android HTC One
Current computer: MacBook (laptop), HP (desktop).

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I'm a professor and researcher on Geographic and Environmental Science. My research focus is on the interactions between people and environment at different scales. I conduct my research at two research departments at University of Cuenca: Environmental Sciences and Water Resources Department; and Space and People Interdisciplinary Department. Currently I'm starting several projects, one of them is aimed to study the movement patterns of pedestrians and bikers in urban areas. This project will look for creating synergy between new technologies and algorithms for movement pattern detection, and methods from social psychology for studying perceptions about the urban environment. I also have other projects, mainly related with the Galapagos Islands.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I usually prefer on-line platforms rather than desktop software for the basic tasks: Documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc. for what I usually work on Google Docs. I do a lot of mapping and spatial analysis of geographic information, and my winner for that is QGIS together with R.

What does your workspace setup look like?
I alternate among three spaces: the computer lab where I teach Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing, and my two desktops at the different departments. We are actually moving to a new lab.





What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Learning and developing good habits for each tasks essential. First of all, a weekly To-Do List has been super useful for me. Also I try to switch spaces for different tasks: If I have to read some papers or focus on some difficult problem, I go to the library since we share a noisy room with several other researchers). If I need to do some creative work (trying to solve a conceptual problem, for example), I prefer to go for a walk outside. Also, when I get stuck on something (like writing), I take a break but do not start any other task until I finish. Last but not least, having and creating a good working environment is essential: you and your team will be much more productive if you trust on each other and you are available for help.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
A weekly To-Do list for the tasks is super useful. For projects I'm just starting with "Project Libre", an open-source version of MS Project that covers all my needs.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I use mapping devices and technologies very often, mainly GPSs and Drones.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
I would say the spatial analysis skills.

What do you listen to when you work?
Mostly classical music, mainly when I need to focus. Also, when I'm creating maps or doing any other task that doesn't require verbal reasoning, I listen to rock, even hard rock.

What are you currently reading?
I read every night until I fall asleep. Currently I'm reading "Nueva Historia del Hombre", a great essay on the nature of humans from a post-humanist perspective. I also read a lot of fiction, last one was "El Hombre que Amaba a los Perros"

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
I'm more of an extrovert. People know that they can approach me for help and talk and I'm usually open for discussing opposite points of view. That makes it easier to connect with other people beyond my research group and getting help and advice from researches on other areas.

What's your sleep routine like?
7 hours from 11 to 6 sharp.

What's your work routine like?
My schedule is kind of messy due different projects and classes in different campus. I like to start early (7am) and try to leave around 5.30pm, although is not always possible. I move around by bike and that helps to clean my mind and feeling good.

What's the best advice you ever received?
Your work is like ice cream: there are different flavors and not everybody will like your choice. But as far as it is consistent and doesn't melt at the smallest touch, it will be good.

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