Former Dean Rafael L. Bras

Former Dean Rafael L. Bras

Rafael L. Bras, Sc.D., a prominent hydrologist and hydroclimatologist from MIT, joined The Henry Samueli School of Engineering as distinguished professor, and served as dean 2008-2010.

Bras is well known for his contributions to soil-vegetation-atmosphere system modeling, and he has been recognized for his innovative work describing and forecasting floods and precipitation. His landscape-river basin-evolution models are widely used in hydrology and geology. Bras also has pioneered ideas about how the deforestation of the Amazon will impact regional and continental climates.

His many awards and accolades include the 2001 election into the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. He is a corresponding member of the National Academy of Engineering of Mexico, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. He received the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for his work on water science and technology, and he also was awarded the Macelwane and Horton medals of the American Geophysical Union for his geophysical and hydrology work.  He also received the Simon W. Freese Award of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute of ASCE and the Honorary Diplomate of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. In 1992, he received an honorary degree from the University of Perugia, Italy.

Bras chairs an international panel of experts overseeing a multi-billion dollar project to develop and construct a system of barriers that will protect Venice, Italy, from flooding during unusually high tides. The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

He has authored more than 170 refereed journal publications, two textbooks, several monographs and many other publications and presentations.

A native of Puerto Rico, Bras holds three degrees from MIT: a bachelor's in civil engineering (1972), a master’s in civil engineering (1974) and a science doctorate in water resources and hydrology (1975). He started as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico before joining the MIT faculty in July 1976.

Prior to UC Irvine, he was the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, and also held an appointment in the university’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

Bras served as head of the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory at MIT from 1983 to 1991; head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1992 to 2001; and chair of the MIT faculty from 2003 to 2005. He was also an associate director of the Center for Global Change Science and directed the Terrascope freshman alternative program.

His dedication to issues of diversity in the faculty and student body earned him MIT’s Martin Luther King Leadership Award in 2000.

Photo credit:  L. Barry Hetherington