DR. DANIEL ALESSI '00
Dr. Daniel S. Alessi is a Professor and the Encana Chair in Water Resources in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta and specializes in environmental geochemistry and geomicrobiology. He attended the University of Wisconsin – Parkside from 1997-2000, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology in 2000 and conducting research under the direction of Dr. Zhaohui (George) Li who sparked his interest in geochemistry. The author of over 160 peer-reviewed scientific publications, his research group focuses on understanding the surface chemistry and reactivity of environmental materials such as iron oxides, bacteria, and biochar, on technologies for lithium extraction from oilfield brines, and improving our knowledge of the water cycle in unconventional oil and gas operations. In 2019, he co-founded the Edmonton, Alberta-based start-up company, Recion Technologies, Inc., which is scaling up and commercializing a direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to recover lithium from brines from around the world.
Prior to joining the University of Alberta, Dr. Alessi spent four years at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, first as a Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher and then as an Ambizione Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation. During this time, he studied the biogeochemistry of uranium and chromium to inform monitoring and remediation strategies for contaminated sites. Prior to that, he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame in environmental geochemistry as an Arthur J. Schmitt Presidential Fellow, and a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in chemical hydrogeology.
Dr. Alessi is the recipient of several teaching and research awards, including the 2017-2018 Petro Canada Young Innovator Award, the 2020-2021 Faculty of Science Research Award at the University of Alberta, and three teaching awards. Most recently, in 2022, he was elected a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada and will be inducted into the College in November 2022. A native Wisconsinite, he returns to the state frequently to visit his family and join friends for competitive running events.
Reflecting on UW-Parkside
Why did you decide to attend UW-Parkside?
I was originally enrolled in UW-Madison and did not have a good start to my undergraduate career there. I moved to Parkside for the smaller student body and more personal attention of the professors. Indeed Profs. James Shea and Gerald Fowler, now retired, were welcoming and encouraging throughout my time there, and Prof. Zhaohui (George) Li was a kind and excellent mentor and the person who set me on a career in geochemistry.
What activities were you involved in at UW-Parkside?
I was involved with the Geoscience Club throughout my time at Parkside, serving as the President in my final year in 1999-2000. Through the club, we arranged several events including field trips with professors in Wisconsin.
How did your UW-Parkside experience impact your professional or personal life?
It was transformative, because I did well at Parkside and it gave me the confidence to pursue further education which led to the academic career that I have today. I would not be where I am today if I had not attended UW-Parkside.
Professional and Personal Highlights
What has been one of the top highlights of your career?
The most satisfying part of my career as a University professor is training students, and seeing them move on to the next steps in their lives; whether that be employment in industry or government, or to the next steps in academia and research.
Who has had the biggest influence on your life or your career and why?
Undoubtedly the four mentors I have had during my training prior to becoming a professor. Those include George Li (UW-Parkside), Tim Grundl (UW-Milwaukee), Jeremy Fein (Notre Dame), and Rizlan Bernier-Latmani (EPF Lausanne). All four were kind and patient mentors – I couldn’t have been luckier.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I enjoy long distance running the most.
What is something that would surprise us about you?
Perhaps something that surprises most people is that I knit. It’s something I picked up as a 10-year old from our grade school librarian, who offered to teach us one year.
Advice from Daniel
What advice do you have for current UW-Parkside Students?
Take advantage of the intimate environment to pursue your interests, and never be afraid to approach a professor about being involved in their work or research.