The Decisions Support & Operations Research group from the University of Fribourg is affiliated to the Smart Living Lab since September 2022. Prof. Bernard Ries, his co-head tells us more about his academic career and research schemes.
You are joining the Smart Living Lab, a research center for the future of the built environment. What are your expectations?
Actually, before officially joining the Smart Living Lab, I was kind of involved already in some way. Indeed, we have a research project funded by Innosuisse in which researchers from iimt, who were members of the Smart Living Lab, participated. I think that bringing together researchers from different domains and with different expertise who work together for the future of the built environment is the best way for fostering interdisciplinary research and come up with sustainable solutions. The Smart Living Lab represents a perfect environment for tackling some of the most challenging problems our society is currently facing. I am very much looking forward to contributing as well with my research group and to exchanging with colleagues from the Smart Living Lab.
What does your academic experience look like? And what will your work focus on over the coming years?
I studied mathematics at EPFL where I also did my PhD thesis from 2004 to 2007. Afterwards, I went to the US (Columbia University, New York) for a postdoc before coming back to Europe for an Assistant Professor position at the University of Warwick (UK). Then, I moved to Paris and spent five years at the Université Paris-Dauphine. Finally, I moved to the University of Fribourg in 2015 where I am currently co-leading the Decision Support & Operations Research group. Thus, I have travelled quite a bit, which also allowed me to meet many researchers and to undertake a lot of collaborations. I am always fascinated by the fact that even though one may work in completely different areas, one often still finds some connection and is able to start an interdisciplinary collaboration. I think it is very important that researchers exchange with each other and combine their complementary expertise, since only this kind of interdisciplinary research is able to bring solutions to the problems we are facing.
The Smart Living Lab represents a perfect environment for tackling some of the most challenging problems our society is currently facing.
Together with my group, we are bringing expertise in decision support, i.e. we support decision makers in complex situations using several quantitative methods and tools like graph theory and mathematical modeling. One of our main projects is about efficient and sustainable waste collection. Our goal is to create a decision support tool to help municipalities in choosing the right waste collection concept for their needs. We currently have several parties interested in collaborating with us. Besides this, we are more than interested to learn from our colleagues at the SLL to hear about their research and to contribute with our expertise whenever we can.
What inspires you about the built environment and its research schemes?
The built environment is a nice example for interdisciplinary research. It concerns not only architects and civil engineers, but also data scientists, computer scientists as well as researchers in social sciences. Bringing together these competencies and making these experts work together fosters the progress in an area which is directly concerned with today’s major challenges in our world. Doing research in the built environment and domains directly linked to it can have a big impact on our society, and being now part of this community here at the SLL is really exciting and I am looking forward to add our expertise as well.
How do you balance your teaching responsibilities with your research projects?
At the University of Fribourg, our teaching load is very reasonable and thus, it leaves enough time for doing research. Personally, I am very happy to have some teaching responsibilities, since I find it very enriching to be in contact with students, try to make them understand complex topics and sometimes make them even become passionate about them. I actually learn a lot from the students while teaching and I am always willing to improve my teaching skills. I also like to have sometimes a break from research in order to get my thoughts cleaned up and refresh my mind, and so having teaching responsibilities besides doing research is a good opportunity for such breaks.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My spare time is mainly devoted to my family and friends. With my wife and our two small kids, who just started school, we like to go to the mountains or to a lake. We also try to see our friends regularly, invite them and spend time with them during a nice dinner. Besides this, I am a big supporter of Fribourg Gottéron, so I try not to miss too many games.