Mines News

Release Date Thursday, June 30, 2022

South Dakota Mines Graduate Who Studies Hurricane Storm Surge Earns Prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship


Dr. Eirik Valseth, a Mines alumnus, has been awarded the Marie Curie Fellowship of the European Union, which is among the most prestigious fellowships in Europe.


If you had to put the work of Eirik Valseth, Ph.D., in a nutshell, you could say he uses math to save lives.

Valseth is developing new mathematical methods to increase the state-of-the-art prediction capabilities for storm surges during hurricanes. When the National Weather Service predicts a hurricane, Valseth and his colleagues spin-up the supercomputers at Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) and produce a forecast showing how high the storm surge will be.

“It’s very rewarding because I know my work today has real impact,” Valseth says. “Our models can be used to evacuate people and save lives. That is not something I ever previously thought I could do as a mathematician.”

Valseth completed his doctorate in mechanical engineering at South Dakota Mines in 2019 and recently landed the Marie Curie Fellowship of the European Union, which is among the most prestigious fellowships in Europe. The fellowship funds collaborative research projects and provides high-quality researcher education and training.

Valseth currently works at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin and credits his Ph.D. advisor at Mines, Dr. Albert Romkes, for his achievements.

“The training he provided is the reason for my success,” says Valseth. “He taught many classes where I was the only student, so I could learn to survive in the world I am in now, so I give him all the credit for my accomplishments.”

For Valseth, his work at the Oden Institute is a dream job. “I knew that I wanted to come here to the Oden Institute because it is the absolute number one location for applied mathematics and computational science in the world. Again, thanks to my advisor, Dr. Romkes, I have been able to thrive here.”

Valseth’s future work as a Marie Curie Fellow will involve some parallel mathematics with new applications to increase the efficiency of hydropower in his home country of Norway, which relies on hydroelectric production for a vast majority of its energy needs.

Predicting and modeling the amount of runoff in a watershed above a hydropower dam is critical for forecasting potential energy generation and for maximizing efficiency. For years, forecasters have relied on past climate data to help determine the given amount of water available in any year. But Valseth says climate change makes past data unreliable. “So, when they make a prediction based on what happened in the past it does not always translate into accurate predictions for the future. In Norway we are seeing the impact of this right now as the price of energy has gone through the roof and more accurate models have the potential to help minimize such price surges in the future.”

Valseth will be developing new techniques by coupling partial differential equations to improve forecast models for rainfall, lake levels and downstream flow in rivers. The work has the potential to improve hydropower production and help reduce overall CO2 emissions. It could also help predict flooding on rivers around the world. As an example, the 2011 flood on the Missouri River in South Dakota reportedly caused more than $2 billion in damages; 4,000 homes were flooded and five people lost their lives. Valseth’s work to better understand and model runoff in river systems could have major benefits for predicting and preparing for future flooding events, which means that, once again, he will be using math to save lives.

"I’m extremely proud of the recognition Dr. Valseth is receiving with the award of this prestigious fellowship,” says Albert Romkes, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering at Mines. “He is a truly talented individual and scholar, and a strong example of the bright minds we are fortunate to educate at South Dakota Mines."




About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu