Dr. Rafael L. Bras, a leading authority on soil-vegetation-atmosphere system modeling, has been named the recipient of Drexel University’s 2010 Anthony J. Drexel Exceptional Achievement Award. The Award, named for the University founder, was created to recognize collaborative, multidisciplinary research focused on real-world solutions that change society.
Bras’s research in the civil engineering subfields of hydrology and hydroclimatology has contributed to solving important societal problems by describing and forecasting floods and precipitation. He has also made major contributions to the study of deforestation’s impact on the hydrologic cycle and on the evolution of landscapes under different climatic forcings and climatic disturbances.
Bras’s career in academics and higher education administration spans 35 years. His career includes positions at MIT, University of California, Irvine, and in September 2010 he was appointed Provost at Georgia Institute of Technology.
“Dr. Bras exemplifies the translational researcher, applying theoretical models to real-world situations. His focus is not only toward intellectual pursuits but also toward developing solutions,” said Drexel University Provost Mark Greenberg
Dr. Bras has served as advisor to many government and private institutions including: the Engineering Directorate, National Science Foundation (NSF); Board of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, National Research Council; Earth Systems Sciences and Applications Committee of NASA and the NASA Advisory Committee; and National Academy of Sciences Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects. He is past president of the hydrology section of American Geophysical Union (AGU) and is presently a member of its board of directors.
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). His academic career began as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, and he joined the MIT faculty in July 1976.
At MIT, he was the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and held an appointment in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Dr. 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. Prior to his appointments at Georgia Tech in August 2010, Dr. Bras was Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine.
Bras, a native of Puerto Rico, maintains an active international consulting practice. Presently he chairs a panel of experts that supervises the design and construction of a multibillion-dollar project to protect the City of Venice from flooding during unusually high tides. The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.
“Drexel established the Anthony J. Drexel Exceptional Achievement Award to build new connections to the national research community and celebrate the transformative work going on in American labs. Drexel is committed to translational or ‘use-inspired’ research,” said Greenberg.
The focus of Drexel’s award changes annually. This year it was presented for work in civil engineering. Last year’s focus was biomedical engineering. The 2009 award was presented to biomedical engineering pioneer James J. Collins, University Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for BioDynamics in the College of Engineering at Boston University, known for his work in improving the brain functions of stroke victims.
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Craig Eisenberger, Drexel News Bureau, email@example.com, 215-895-2705