Ernesto F. Valdes: Professor, Engineer, and Mentor
Here at Eastern Engineering Group, we value the experience and perspectives the engineers before us have developed over the years. Therefore, we would like to dedicate this article as a tribute to one of the most respected and admired Professors in Cuba, Ernesto F Valdes.
Professor Ernesto F Valdes was born on February 15, 1941, in Matanzas, Cuba. He went to high school at the Segunda Enseñanza de Matanzas Institute where he graduated in 1958 with science, and land surveying credits. Professor Valdes then proceeded to major in Civil Engineering at Havana University in 1960. However, his calling as a civil engineer started years before he set foot in any university. At a young age, he would create cement blocks out of matchboxes; he would then gather several of these small bricks to create little houses in his backyard. His devotion to civil engineering allowed Ernesto to be a professor for 36 years, and work in the construction industry for 62 years.
Civil Engineering. His Passion.
Even though Professor Ernesto F Valdes began his university studies in 1960, he started to work a year prior at the Ministry of Construction in the City of Matanzas. He started as an instrumentalist and later became the Director of Land Surveying Studies; all while going to college at the same time. A few years later he transferred to the Ministry of Construction in Havana where he worked as a technical drafter and engineering assistant until 1964. That same year he started teaching younger classes at the Technological University Havana (ISPIAE,CUJAE), where he was also a student.
After he graduated as a civil engineer in 1966, he continued to work as a professor in the department of structural analysis, and later in the department of structural design. Simultaneously, Professor Valdes started working on the design of bridges alongside Maximiliano Isoba, one of Cuba’s biggest engineering icons. Later on, he took over the classes that Isoba was teaching at the university.
Professor Valdes taught Theory of Mechanics, Materials Resistance I and II, Structural Theory I and II; Bridges I and II, Posttensioned Concrete I, IV, and V, Structural Concrete I; and several PHD courses related to concrete structural design. However, Ernesto has always been a fan of the structural engineering of bridges. When he started teaching university courses that were focused on this type of design, he did it under the condition that he would work on bridges himself. Professor Valdes always believed he could efficiently teach theory if he had the on-site experience of materializing these projects.
These are some of the bridge related projects Professor Ernesto F. Valdes participated on:
Guaninicum Bridge, Santiago de Cuba
Niña Bonita Bridge, Habana
Railway Bridges, MINAZ
Inspections and reparations of bridges at Pinar del Rio and Habana
All bridges of Nueva Gerona – La Fe Highway, Isla de Pinos
Professor Valdes and the Civil Engineering World
In 1970, Professor Valdes participated in the FIP VI Congress in Prague where he acted as the consulting engineer for the Italian firm, ITALCONSULT. During this convention, he was part of the elaboration of several bridge designs for Cuba’s expressway. In Addition, Ernesto F Valdes gave structural engineering lectures in several countries including Nicaragua, Brazil, and Peru. Throughout his travels, he obtained his title as a professor in 1977, he got his masters in Structural Engineering in 1978, and finally, in 1995 he completed a PHD in Technical Science. On August 17th, 2001, he began a new life in the United States.
When Ernesto came to the States, not only was his personal life taking a spin, but his career was also shifting. When he arrived in Miami, he had to change his engineering path from horizontal structures to vertical structures. From 2003 until 2016, he worked at DDA Engineers, P.A mainly calculating concrete buildings. DDA Engineers was founded in 1969 and has collaborated in the structural engineering for some of the most iconic buildings in Miami such as the Frost Museum of Science, Royal Caribbean Cruise Terminal, and American Airlines Arena, among many others. Ernesto collaborated as a structural engineer in projects such as Marina Blue (60-floor skyscraper), the aquarium and planetarium at the Frost Museum of Science, and other medium buildings the firm was working on at the time. In 2016, Professor Ernesto F Valdes began working from home as a private consultant for structural engineering projects.
Ernesto F. Valdes. Professor, Engineer, and Mentor.
Despite the fact that Ernesto hasn’t been a professor for years, his students still contact him every day with engineering questions. He states that the best way of learning is to teach others. But not only has he transmitted his knowledge through lectures, he has also written several technical articles which we will be sharing in the Publications section of our blog. Furthermore, he was the author of Dos Tomos de Puentes (Two Volumes of Bridges) and the co-author of the book Hormigon Pretensado (Post-Tensioned Concrete). Other engineers are great admirers of his work because of the way he explains engineering concepts. The writing style of Professor Valdes is very unique due to his teaching experience. For a teaser of his work, check out one of the articles he wrote for our company describing his structural analysis of the Champlain Towers Collapse.
Furthermore, with his experience as a professor and being an author himself, he says Razon y Ser de los Tipos Estructurales (The Reason and Being of Structural Types) by Eduardo Torroja, is a book every structural engineer must read. Professor Valdes mentions that this book gives the perfect description of the science behind structural engineering without mentioning any formulas. He mentioned his concern that current structural engineers are becoming more dependent on design software as the years go by. He believes that current engineers and soon-to-be engineers must learn the theory behind building codes. They must not rely all their analyses on technology, and they should double check their work manually. He encourages engineers to study as much as they can, and he mentions he would give the same advice to a younger version of himself.
Knowledge is Power
Knowledge is power. This famous and wise quote takes different meanings when referring to specific disciplines. When applying this concept to structural engineering, we can say that the students who have chosen this path have the power of adapting to the forces of nature and using them to their advantage. We call them students because they will never stop learning. Engineers are constantly feeding their intellect with different research papers and publications to develop a better problem-solving mentality. However, there is nothing more nurturing than the advice and knowledge their mentors can transmit. We would like to thank Ernesto for all his contributions to the Civil Engineering world; and for the many lessons he has taught engineers all over the globe.
Translation By: Ivet Llerena (Eastern Engineering Group).
Structural Drawings By: Eastern Engineering Group.
© 2021 This article was written by Ernesto Valdes and published by Eastern Engineering Group. All rights reserved.