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LIFD Early Career Researcher Spotlight: Maria Taccari


Thesis title: Physics informed deep learning for groundwater prediction

School/ Faculty: School of Civil Engineering  (Funding source: NERC Panorama DTP)

Supervisors: Dr Xiaohui Chen, Dr He Wang and Professor Peter Jimack.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in a small town in northern Italy and have always been passionate about maths since I was a child. After the BSc, I moved to the Netherlands, where I spent 7 years first completing an MSc and then working on flood defences in a research institute. It was only then that I found the topic that I was truly passionate about and I decided to come to Leeds for starting a PhD.

In my free time, I am an avid tennis player, and I love learning new things, whether it's new sports, languages, or discovering new places.

What is your research about?

AI is profoundly impacting many sectors in the society, but its influence in science is still to be seen. Motivated by the abundance of sensor data and the pressing challenges posed by climate change and recent droughts, I am applying deep learning to groundwater forecasting. By integrating observed data with deep neural networks, I am developing methods that can provide accurate and rapid estimates of groundwater system responses, while respecting the underlying physical laws. A primary application of my research is in drought prediction.

What did you wish you knew before starting a PhD?

My PhD journey has been very rewarding, and I haven't encountered any unexpected surprises or things I wish I'd known beforehand. However, as a piece of advice, I would emphasize the importance of being informed about the research environment before starting a PhD, as that has profound impact on the output of one's work. Also, it's important not to feel diminished when comparing oneself to others (so-called impostor syndrome), especially when they might be part of larger research groups and having thus stronger support.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to keep doing research into the application of AI to societal and environmental challenges. I am keen on sharing and applying the knowledge I've acquired, continue my learning journey, and collaborate with a group that shares my enthusiasm and vision.