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Making research matter

Applied mathematician Inga Berre is drawn to solving problems, and enjoys being in for the long haul in cracking them.

Inga Berre
IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Professor Inga Berre enjoys solving the hardest probles there are, and does not care that it may take a long time. In future projects, she plans to further explore deformations of the subsurface caused by human activities.
Photo:
Jens Helleland Ådnanes, UiB

Inga Berre realized that she wanted to pursue a career as a researcher when she was introduced to applied mathematics as a student at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. 

"I have always liked working on difficult subjects, the things I do not understand. I have no problem with having to work hard and long to find a solution," Inga Berre says. 

Born in 1978, she completed her doctorate in 2005. She joined UiB as an associate professor the year after, and in 2013 she was promoted to full professor at the Department of Mathematics at the University. 

Academic freedom

"I have always appreciated the freedom in being a faculty member at the university – being able to choose for oneself what one wants to achieve. I love the lack of routine, the fact that we always work on something new, " the Professor says. 

She talks of an inspiring student and researcher environment, that convinced her that she was in the right place.

"Already as a student, attending conferences and spending time at Inria in France and at UCLA, I became part of international networks and organizations that I am still active in. 

Based on new research interests and research projects, I have also expanded my network and collaborations far beyond this.

She mentions TU Munich, ETH Zürich, Delft University of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Stuttgart as some of the group’s partners, both when it comes to research and researcher training.

"The group is part of a large international network. It is important for us that all our PhD students become part of this international community of academics," she says. 

An international environment

Today, Berre's main research interests are mathematical modelling, partial differential equations and numerical methods, in particular motivated by simulation of coupled thermal-hydraulic-mechanical processes in fractured geothermal systems.

"What do you regard as your most important work as an academic so far?"

"Training PhD-students. Playing a part in developing new researchers along with doing science is incredibly interesting."

She emphasises the importance of letting the work of Master's and PhD students play a part in larger research projects.

"We are able to make their works valuable both to them as students and early career researchers, and for bigger projects and scientific results," Berre says. 

As a researcher, it is harder to pinpoint her most rewarding achievements.

"It is always one of the current projects, isn't it!"

She currently leads the research project ERiS funded by The Research Council of Norway (RCN) which is soon to be finalized. 

"ERiS was a high-risk project, and we have come a long way in creating new mathematical models for fracture deformation induced by fluid injections. In this project, we study a case from the Reykjanes geothermal field in Iceland in collaboration with NORSAR, Iceland Geosurvey, Equinor and HS Orka. Based on the combination of mathematical modelling with the analysis of seismic data we can obtain new insights in the dynamics.”

Going underground

In future projects, her ambitions are clear. She wants to continue to explore thousands of metres into the Earth's crust. 

"We wish to further understand deformations of the subsurface caused by human activities. Such deformations are not necessarily problematic, and they can also be caused deliberately. The risk is to unintentionally cause larger, damaging deformations.” 

An example is larger earthquakes induced by fluid injection. 

"We will not be able to predict earthquakes, but we will learn more about the risks of them happening and how these can be mitigated," Berre says.

Worldwide, there is a need for more knowledge on the mechanisms behind this potentially devastating phenomenon.

"As a researcher, I feel that I have a responsibility to society. I want my research to matter," the mathematician finishes.