Alumni Focus: Lautaro Rayo (M.S. ‘12, Earth science)

Alumnus Lautaro Rayo graduated from KAUST in 2012 with a master's degree in Earth science. Image courtesy of Lautaro Rayo.

​Embracing his sense of adventure, Lautaro Rayo chose to study at KAUST prior to the campus even being finished. In 2012, he graduated from the University with a master's degree in Earth science.

"It was an adventure to move to a place I knew so little about. Through pursuing a higher degree in such a multinational and multiethnic environment, I felt there was so much to learn and such potential for growth," Rayo noted. "I was also influenced by assurances that faculty joining the campus would be of high caliber and the facilities would be second to none—and would include a marine science department with its own aquarium, research vessel, lab and computing power."

High-quality facilities were an important consideration for Rayo, who completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2010 from the University of Chile, where he specialized in hydraulics and environmental hydrodynamics. After graduating, Rayo was a visiting student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. It was there that he worked as a volunteer in data processing at an acoustics lab, gathering data from the sea bottom using deployed instruments.

Alumnus Lautaro Rayo (M.S. '12) is pictured here at his KAUST graduation in 2012 on campus. Image courtesy of Lautaro Rayo.

Today, Lautaro works as a petrophysicist at Saudi Aramco, where he explores the Red Sea for oil and gas from a desktop computer at the company's headquarters in Dhahran.

"I use a vast array of tools, laboratory measurements, empirical relations and data analysis algorithms to investigate the existence and quality of potential undiscovered reservoirs and the nature of fluids present," Rayo said. "The objective is to increase Aramco's oil and gas reserves in the Red Sea."

Rayo says he finds his job both interesting and fulfilling, yet it was a career he fell into by chance.

"I didn't know this career existed until graduating from KAUST, and I knew very little about the oil industry in general. I was interviewed by Aramco at KAUST's career fair just before graduation, and they must have seen I had the required skills," he said. "The job description sounded exciting, and they told me that analytical and research skills were important. I'm happy to say that after a few years of working in the role, it has really lived up to my expectations."

Alumnus Lautaro Rayo (M.S. '12, right) currently works for Saudi Aramco in Dhahran as a petrophysicist. Image courtesy of Lautaro Rayo.

Rayo's job requires him to be constantly on call to make decisions that are potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of this, he must be disciplined and have a sense of ownership in the project he's working on.

"I used to be someone who would enjoy taking as much time as possible analyzing data before thoroughly drafting a conclusion. It turns out that in real life most of the time, you have to make the best decision that resources and time allows," he noted.

His plans for the future are clear. In the medium term, he'd like to get involved in other disciplines within oil exploration, especially in geophysics and geomechanics. He'd also like to have a more solid and well-rounded knowledge of the exploration effort.

"In the long term, I see myself migrating to geothermal exploration, which is an alternative energy source still so scarcely profited from," Rayo concluded.

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