- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Solis was born in Mexico City and began contributing to the family income at the age of 13 as a grocery store bagger. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Instituto Politecnico Nacional.
When Solis was hired to help a community of 300 manage its water resources, he was nervous about his abilities, the article said.
"However, like many hardworking Latinos, Samuel put his fear and doubts to the side, and decided to pursue this great opportunity," wrote reporter Vanessa Parra.
Solis earned a master's degree in hydraulics at Instituto Politecnico Nacional, and a Ph.D. in environmental and water resources engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. His research centered on the Rio Grande, a river shared by Mexico and the U.S. (Mexicans call the river Rio Bravo.)
"I was under friendly fire from people of both nations," Solis said. "Because I was doing my research in the Rio Grande/Bravo while living in Texas, people from the U.S. thought I was a spy and people from Mexico thought that I was a traitor," he said.
The language and culture barriers that Solis once perceived as negative characteristics became valuable assets when he joined the University of California. He is able to communicate with Spanish-speaking farmers on a personal level.
Solis began his work in California just as it was caught in the grip of the current four-year drought. The dry period, he said, can be viewed as a "tipping point" to change the way the state uses and manages its water. His research focuses on water planning and management.
"We develop methods for finding strategies to better distribute water, ensuring adequate quality and the right timing," Solis said. "We consider the scientific, social, environmental, and economic aspects of basins. Our goal is to improve California's water management through cooperation, shared vision and science-based solutions."