The clear water of the Rhone meets the brown turbid water of the Arve and mixes with it

© | Danuta Hyniewska

Research Philosophy

The research approach for making progress in hydraulic engineering and environmental hydromechanics is based on the following pillars (Fig. 1):

  • Interdisciplinarity. Hydraulic engineering and environmental hydromechanics broadly concern systems that are driven by flowing water. The highest potential for progress lies at the interface of disciplines, i.e. at the crossroads of fluid mechanics, sediment transport and geomorphology, aquatic ecology, and structural engineering.
  • A combined methodology, which exploits synergies between experimental research in the field and in the laboratory, numerical modelling, and theoretical-conceptual modelling. Experimental research in the field and in the laboratory is our core expertise. Our equipment for field investigations and our Wasserforschungslabor are intended as versatile open platforms that target a broad user community and foster multidisciplinary collaboration.
  • Linking basic science, applied science and engineering. The focus is on problem-driven research, and in particular research inspired by problems encountered in engineering practice that have global relevance. Linkages with the engineering community are strengthened through applied research that provides guidance and consultancy in solving engineering problems that go beyond the competence of engineering companies.
  • Development of instrumentation. Progress in hydraulic engineering and environmental hydromechanics is largely technology driven. Changes in paradigm are often initiated by the emergence of new measurement technologies (sensors, robotics). It is an important mission to contribute to the development of a new generation of measuring instruments. Martin Wolf supervises our techological activities.
  • Multi-project research themes. The temporal horizon for research that involves various disciplines, a combined methodology, basic and applied research and make use of novel technology is typically decadal. The research activities are organized along themes that encompass multiple projects of variable duration, including PhDs, Postdocs, MScs, short-term projects, etc.
  • Collaboration. Top-level expertise in multiple disciplines and methodologies is obviously beyond the scope of one group. Collaborations at the local, national and international level are a key element of the research philosophy and strategy. The interdisciplinarity requires collaboration with experts in individual disciplines, and in particular with experts in fluid mechanics, sedimentology and ecology. The development of new measurement technology requires collaboration with experts in e.g., electronics, micro-engineering or informatics.
An interdisciplinary consideration of the areas of sediment transport, watercourse morphology, hydraulic engineering and water quality or watercourse ecology directly influences the selection of the scientific approach or the possible approaches to solving an engineering problem. This determines which methods, such as laboratory investigations, field measurements, numerical or theoretical modelling, etc., are necessary for an engineering solution that can be implemented in order to offer meaningful and future-oriented solutions in the long term. Project collaborations and the subdivision into several sub-disciplines and projects lead to such a long-term and technically feasible solution within a time horizon of around 10 years.

Fig.1 Schematical presentation of the vision on hydraulic engineering and environmental hydromechanics and its main pillars