Atrás Blai Vidiella, doubly awarded for his Ph.D. thesis

Blai Vidiella, doubly awarded for his Ph.D. thesis

The thesis was awarded an Extraordinary Award by the University of Pompeu Fabra and a Jorge Wagensberg Award by the Complex Systems Catalan Association


Imatge inicial

Blai Vidiella is a postdoctoral researcher at IBE and completed his thesis about "Terraforming Earth's ecosystems: engineering ecosystems to avoid anthropogenic tipping points" at Complex Systems Lab (CSL) with Ricard Solé, Principal Investigator at IBE, among its supervisors.

By combining mathematical modeling and genetic engineering, the proposal seeks to restore the balance of deserts and oceans using microorganisms' genomes.

Terraforming Earth, the proposal

Terraformation is a concept that comes from science fiction literature, in which humans can make non-habitable planets habitable. The destruction of the environment caused by human activity and climate change makes this concept relevant today.

Through the addition of new species and the engineering of autochthonous microbial species, this thesis explores new strategies for restoring Earth's devastated habitats. Microorganisms would gain new functionalities as a result of these engineering strategies that would allow them to induce a bottom-up change in the ecosystem: from the micro-scale (microenvironment) to the macro-scale (even affecting species composition in the ecosystem as a whole). 

"The thesis put the focus on deserts and plastic in the ocean. To terraform the deserts, autochthonous microorganisms would be engineered to produce more polysaccharides, which hamper evaporation from soil and loss of humidity. For ocean plastic, the idea is introducing microorganisms capable of degrading the plastic that would disappear once its function has been fulfilled, that is when the plastic has run out." Explains Blai Vidiella in the PRBB podcast "La mare de la Ciència".

These are some of the thesis designs to restore the sustainability of habitats, a relevant and complex proposal that has won one of the most prestigious prizes in the complex systems of its discipline.

About Jorge Wagensberg Award 

Since 2019, the Jorge Wagensberg Award recognizes the best doctoral thesis in the area of complex systems science defended in Catalunya during the previous year.

The award, which comes with a cash prize of €1,000, pays tribute to Jorge Wagensberg, professor, researcher, and disseminator of the science of complex systems, and is awarded by the Catalan Association for the Study of Complex Systems ( brings together researchers from disparate disciplines with the goal of promoting the research and popularization of complexity science. Sergi Valverde, Principal Investigator at IBE, is one of the current members of its board. 

On June 21st, it will celebrate its yearly reunion, where Blai Vidiella will talk about his thesis and explain how to terraform the Earth, a dream first dreamt for Mars.




Perfiles de los protagonistas:

Blai Vidiella


ODS - Objetivos de desarrollo sostenible:

Els ODS a la UPF