Two young and talented Hungarian researchers return home from the Netherlands and join the Institute of Earth Physics and Space Science


In April, Kristóf Porkoláb and his wife Eszter Békési returned home from Utrecht in the Netherlands to join the Earth Observation Research Group of the ELKH Institute of Earth Physics and Space Science (FI). Armed with the knowledge and experience they have gained abroad, the talented young researchers aim to contribute to the development of earth sciences in Hungary, and also to support the integration of the institute into international research in this field. Their outstanding scientific work to date is demonstrated by a study published in several prestigious earth sciences journals – Tectonics, Geothermics, Global and Planetary Change, and Nature Communications.

The two researchers graduated from Eötvös Loránd University in 2014 with bachelor's degrees in geology, then each with a master's degree in 2016, Kristóf Porkoláb as a geologist and Eszter Békési as a geophysicist. They then moved to the Netherlands together, where Kristóf began working on an international project on subduction zone research as a PhD student at the University of Utrecht under the EU Horizon 2020 – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions program. Eszter worked for the Dutch Geological Survey (TNO) and then, closely related to her work there, she also began her doctoral studies at the University of Utrecht. Her topic – also within the EU Horizon 2020 program – is related to the GEMex project, which focuses on research and development of geothermal fields in Mexico.

Kristóf Porkoláb mainly deals with the deformation of the Earth's rocky crust and plate tectonic processes, with special regard to subduction-collision zones. For his scientific work, he applies the tools of field structural geology, metamorphic petrology, radiometric dating and numerical geodynamic modeling. His most significant achievements are related to the understanding of burial-exhumation cycles on the continents. His current research focuses primarily on tectonics in the Mediterranean and the numerical modeling of tectonic processes.

Eszter Békési's main field of research is geothermal energy, and the temperature distribution of geothermal fields and rock deformations due to geothermal energy production in particular. In her work, she uses various geophysical methods such as numerical temperature modeling and the study of surface deformations using satellite data. She has already achieved significant results in the geophysical characterization of geothermal fields. She is currently continuing her work with her new research team in Hungary. This work includes the study of the temperature distribution and surface deformation of geothermal fields, and the processing of satellite data through case studies in Hungary.

There were both professional and family reasons for the two young and talented scientists to return home. They both feel that in the inclusive, supportive and inspiring environment of the institute, they have the opportunity to continue the work they have started, while also contributing to the development of the discipline in Hungary.

The researchers' joint future plans include the development of numerical models of complex geological processes that can be used to understand and quantify the interactions between, among other things, rock deformation and water flow, as well as chemical reactions. Understanding these is key to both basic research (such as geodynamics and petrology) and applied (industrial) research. For example, the modeling of Hungary's deep geothermal reservoirs can contribute to the exploitation of its high domestic geothermal potential.

In addition, they would like to place great emphasis on building and strengthening domestic and international cooperation. The geodetic and seismological expertise available within FI provides excellent opportunities to achieve these goals.