Hydrosystem expert recognised with Honorary degree

Professor Rainer Helmig
Prof Dr-Ing Rainer Helmig

A globally respected academic role model whose work has helped environmental engineering was today recognised with an honorary degree from Heriot-Watt University.

Prof Dr-Ing Rainer Helmig received his degree on Monday, 20 June in recognition of his outstanding personal contributions and leadership in promoting visionary interdisciplinary research in porous media.

At a ceremony held at the University’s Edinburgh campus, Prof Dr-Ing Helmig was presented with a Doctor of Engineering by Professor Sebastian Geiger.

Rainer Helmig is Head of the Department of Hydromechanics and Modelling of Hydrosystems in the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, Germany since 2000.

His research covers groundwater hydrology, multi-phase flow in porous media, numerical modelling, and the analysis of coupled processes between the unsaturated zone and the atmosphere. He puts a special focus on coupling hydrosystem compartments and complex flow and transport processes, as well as integrating data and models.

The research also contributes to the development of new model concepts to enhance the understanding of land-atmosphere interactions, evaporation and evapotranspiration processes, climate modelling, and salt precipitation.

Professor Helmig gained his doctoral degree from the University of Hannover in 1993 and an advanced research degree (Habilitation) from the University of Stuttgart in 1996.

After receiving his Honorary Degree, Professor Helmig said: “It is a great honour for me to accept the honorary degree of Heriot-Watt university. I am extremely happy that today I become a member of this prestigious institution and thank you for very much for the recognition. Obtaining this honorary degree makes me very grateful and, in view of my rather circuitous career, I also feel great satisfaction to get this outstanding award.

“It is thanks to the long and successful collaboration with Sebastian Geiger, his team and the many other good colleagues at Heriot-Watt that I was able to learn a lot about transport processes in porous media over the past years and, hopefully, I can continue learning. Thank you for the support!

“Heriot-Watt is one of the world's leading universities in the field of energy management in geological formations. Especially under the conditions of climate change we need more and more knowledge about how to use the subsurface for energy storage taking into account e.g. the natural resource groundwater. Therefore, and for many other reasons, I am very pleased to be able to work more intensively with the leading scientists from your university in this field. And, dear graduates, I can only congratulate you for having been trained here. You are excellently prepared for one of the most important challenges e.g. “storage of green gas from renewable energy sources” of our society.”

In 1995, he was awarded the renowned “Dresdner Grundwasserforschungspreis” for his doctoral thesis on “Theory and numerics of multiphase flow through fractured porous media”. His habilitation thesis was published by Springer in the much-cited textbook “Multiphase flow and transport processes in the subsurface: A contribution to the modelling of hydrosystems”. From 1997 to 2000, Rainer Helmig held a professorship in “Computer Applications in Civil Engineering” at the Technical University of Braunschweig.

Rainer Helmig is co-editor of several journals: “Advances in Water Resources” (since 1999), “Computational Geosciences” (since 2007), “Journal of Geomathematics” (2009–2017), “Water Resources Research” (2011–2016). He was co-founder and, from 2009 to 2011, President of the International Society for Porous Media “InterPore”. Rainer Helmig is spokesman of the Collaborative Research Centre 1313 “Interface-Driven Multi-Field Processes in Porous Media – Flow, Transport and Deformation” and he was a member of the Executive Board of Directors of the Clusters of Excellence “Simulation Technology” and “Data-integrated Simulation Science” at the University of Stuttgart.  He is an elected member of the “Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities” and an elected member of the “German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech)”.  The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) selected Rainer Helmig as the “2015 Darcy Lecturer”. In this relation he gave 68 lectures in 14 countries. In 2019, he got the “InterPore Honorary Lifetime Membership Award” and was awarded “Magne Espedal Adjunct Professor” at the University of Bergen. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) elected him to the “2020 Class of Fellows”.

Professor Sebastian Geiger, FRSE, Professor for Sustainable Geoenergy and Energi Simulation Chair at the Delft University of Technology delivered Professor Dr-Ing Helmig’s laureation.

Professor Geiger said: ”Professor Helmig is not only an outstanding and visionary scientist who has made game changing contributions to the key challenges society faces today – how we can use our natural resources more sustainably – perhaps more importantly he is also a truly inspiring academic role model: despite his unparalleled success, Professor Helmig has remained very humble and always puts his colleagues and students first, ensuring that those around him have all the support and opportunities they need to reach their full potential. ”

Prof Dr-Ing Helmig has published more than 170 scientific articles, 5 books and 22 book chapters. 37 co-authored peer reviewed articles appeared in conference proceedings. Over the years, he has supervised a total of 42 doctoral students and has been involved in a further over 117 doctoral procedures and 12 habilitation procedures.

He is one of four distinguished recipients presented with an honorary degree this week as part the University’s summer graduation ceremonies held at its Edinburgh campus.

A total of 10 graduation ceremonies are being held at the University between Friday 17th June and Friday, 24th June marking the academic achievement of students from the School of Social Sciences, the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society, the School of Textiles & Design, and the School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences.

Other graduation ceremonies at our Dubai and Malaysia campuses are taking place in July.


Susan Kerr