Juan Carlos Silva - Faculty Story | IE University

Juan Carlos Silva

About me

I am originally from Colombia—the second most biodiverse country globally and the second richest country in freshwater resources. I pursued my Bachelor of Science in Geology at the Universidad EAFIT in Medellin, Colombia. Then, I pursued my master’s degree in Environmental Geology in Brazil at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. In early 2009, I earned my PhD in Natural Sciences, with an emphasis on Environmental Isotope Geochemistry, at the Universität Bern in Switzerland.

I am an earth system scientist and I’m currently working full-time at IE University as head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Sustainability. I have a lot of interesting hobbies that get me out in nature—I’m very passionate about cycling, hiking, backpacking, nature washing and rock collecting.

shapeJuan Carlos Silva
case2Academic Director of the Bachelor in Environmental Sciences for Sustainability

"IE University is one of the top-ranked academic institutions in Europe. It is highly recognized for its Sustainability Office and for being one of the first carbon-neutral universities worldwide."

Juan Carlos Silva

A lasting passion to protect the Earth’s biodiversity

Before Juan Carlos Silva joined IE University and following the completion of his PhD, he became a postdoctoral research fellow at the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. In 2011, he went on to become an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Universidad de Caldas in Colombia. His record of academic excellence and outstanding research contributions meant that, in 2012, he received the prestigious Marie Curie International Outgoing Postdoctoral Fellowship. This award allowed Juan to undertake research activities at Stanford University and the University of Leeds. During this period, he investigated the effects of global warming, ocean acidification and ocean deoxygenation on the global biogeochemical cycles; and the effect of this deadly triad on marine biodiversity.

He then became a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Houston. There, he continued applying non-traditional stable isotope geochemistry to examine how major environmental and climatic disruptions relate to some of the most catastrophic biological extinctions in the history of Earth. In 2018, he returned to Colombia and took several academic positions in respected institutions, including the Universidad Antonio Nariño, Uniminuto University and the Colombian National Science Foundation.

Juan has traveled the world in the last five years, acting as a guest lecturer in a number of universities in the US, the UK, China, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia. He has also served in various top leadership positions at renowned research organizations such as the One-Health Research Group and Colombia's Marine and Coastal Geology Research Group. Juan joined IE University in 2023 to serve as the head and director of the Department of Environmental Sciences for Sustainability. He’s also the academic director of the newly-launched Bachelor in Environmental Sciences for Sustainability.

Juan reveals that he was inspired to pursue his career by the amazing biodiversity, an impressive variety of water resources, astonishing geodiversity and sheer beauty of the tropics. In a warming world, however, some of the natural processes that shape these landscapes have intensified and are now putting human life—along with the sustainability of modern tropical ecosystems—at risk. Aware of the potential problems that societies worldwide would face because of global warming, Juan decided that he wanted to build a career and knowledge base that would allow him to understand and provide comprehensive solutions to the ongoing climatic and environmental crises. 

Juan Carlos Silva - Faculty Story | IE UniversityJuan’s broad experience and passion for the subject made him a great fit for IE University, but what drove his decision to join its faculty? Not only is it one of the top-ranked institutions in Europe, it’s also one of the first carbon-neutral universities worldwide. Further, its widely respected IE Sustainability Office and its strong commitment to facing and contributing towards tackling global issues by providing high-quality education in an inspiring and multi-diverse environment are just some of the reasons why Juan chose IE University.

Of course, innovative and diverse nature-based climate solutions are required to help us take on the growing climate crisis. And to ensure their successful development and implementation, the Bachelor in Environmental Sciences for Sustainability aims to prepare the next generation of global leaders, equipped to provide innovative and effective environmental solutions in a scientifically informed way. Juan helps students do this, giving them the tools to positively impact the socioeconomic sustainability of global societies and the natural environment.

In order to become someone capable of transforming modern society in this way, Juan believes students need to be both curious and creative, with excellent communication and leadership skills. He notes that graduates of the program will be on the frontline of the green revolution, fostering collaboration between academia, the public sector and private industry to develop high-impact projects that will positively mitigate the ongoing environmental crisis.

Aside from academics, Juan is an experienced amateur road cyclist. He is passionate about the outdoors and has a very nice rock and mineral collection back in Colombia. He also has a keen interest in the preservation of cultural heritage sites, scientific communication and tourism.

Check out in detail Juan Carlos Silva's academic and corporate experience

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"IE University is one of the top-ranked academic institutions in Europe. It is highly recognized for its Sustainability Office and for being one of the first carbon-neutral universities worldwide."

Juan Carlos Silva