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Student Focus: Bruno Antonio Pulido Ponce de León

Mexican Ph.D. student Bruno Pulido joined KAUST in August 2014. KAUST was his first opportunity to live abroad. Photo by Khulud Muath.

​-By A. Ortega, KAUST News

KAUST student Bruno Antonio Pulido Ponce de León came to the University in August 2014 to pursue his Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering in the Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering division.

Before joining KAUST, Pulido completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry and his master's degree in chemical science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. There, he gained experience from working in the Institute of Materials Research, where he investigated the synthesis and characterization of novel polymers. While at UNAM, he also performed in science shows for children's parties and was a teacher for UNAM's undergraduate chemistry students.

Pulido currently works in the University's Nanostructured Polymeric Membrane Lab under the direction of his supervisor, Professor Suzana Nunes. His main research interest is materials chemistry—and particularly the synthesis and preparation of functional polymeric membranes.

"Our group focuses on the sustainable design of high-performance polymeric membranes to be used in challenging chemical separation processes," he said. "The membranes we develop can be used in industries that deal with a lot of organic solvents, such as pharmaceuticals and oil refineries, helping to create zero waste processes and closed production loops. Membrane technology offers a more energy-efficient separation and purification methods compared to other more traditional techniques."

KAUST Ph.D. student Bruno Pulido is supervised by Professor Suzana Nunes (pictured) in her Nanostructured Polymeric Membrane Laboratory. File photo.

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A 'bold' move to KAUST

Pulido heard about KAUST from an acquaintance studying at the University. After receiving his KAUST acceptance letter, he had to make a hard decision and choose whether or not to leave his comfort zone in his native Mexico.

"On the one hand, I [had] a good job in my home city, close to my family and friends. [My life was] stable and [the job provided me] with excellent benefits. On the other hand, there was KAUST—the unknown, the adventure, almost as far as [a Mexican] can go. A decision was made and fortuna audaces iuvat—[fortune favors the bold]," he said.

While at KAUST, student Bruno Pulido (second from right) had the chance to be part of the organizing committee for TEDxKAUST in 2017. File photo.

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During his time at KAUST, Pulido has taken part in different extracurricular activities. 

"I taught Spanish [for the University's Graduate Affairs Cultural Language Exchange Group]," he said. "With the [KAUST] Green Group, we organized a 'Prevent Food Waste Campaign,' [and] I also became a Residential Assistance to help students with their life [on] campus. I [also] had the chance to be part of the committee for the first TEDxKAUST [in 2017], and I later participated in the coordination of the Science Crossroads Initiative lectures."

Bruno Pulido (right) participates in the University's 2016 Fall Enrichment Program as a representative of the Green Group with then-fellow student (and current alumna) María José Mosqueira Santillán (left). File photo.

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New beginnings

"Back in Mexico, I used to go on cycling and trekking trips to the mountains and volcanoes around Mexico City," Pulido noted. "When I arrived [at] KAUST, baking bread became my favorite thing to do for...me and others. Baking at the end of the day was an excellent way to cheer me up after a no-so-successful experiment."

Pulido also married his wife while at KAUST, and the couple now has a baby daughter.

"For the last year, learning to be a dad has been my main and favorite hobby," he said. "Starting my life as a parent in KAUST was a great experience. Living on campus [has] allow[ed] me to keep working as usual while having the chance to spend quality time with my family. This has been possible due to the short commuting distances and a welcoming [and] child-friendly community."

A new perspective

"KAUST is a truly unique learning environment with an extraordinarily diverse and balanced community," Pulido said. "KAUST introduced me to the leading academics in my field and provided me with a global perspective on the current research challenges."

Pulido recently successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation, and he advised fellow students and research colleagues to get involved in collaborations.

"No man is an island," he noted. "We rise by lifting others. Collaboration is key for the success of the scientific endeavor. Get to know your colleagues, build a network [and] help and be helped. There is no 'team of one' in science."

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