Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Rafael L. Bras, an internationally respected authority in hydrology, has been appointed head of the Department of Civil Engineering, effective July 1.
He succeeds Professor David H. Marks, who has headed the department since 1985. Professor Marks was recently appointed to direct the School of Engineering's newly established Program in Environmental Engineering Education and Research (PEEER).
The appointment of Professor Bras, who holds the William E. Leonhard Professorship of Engineering, was announced by Dean of Engineering Joel Moses in a letter to department faculty dated May 27.
"I am pleased that Rafael has accepted the position as department head, and I expect that under his leadership the department will continue to develop leading educational and research programs," said Dean Moses, the D.C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.
As a hydrologist, Professor Bras has specialized in the interpretation of natural phenomena as random functions. He has been recognized for his use of modern probabilistic methods in the design of networks to monitor rainfall and river flow, and in rainfall and river discharge forecasting. Presently his interests span the areas of fluvial geomorphology and hydroclimatology.
From 1983 to 1991 Professor Bras was director of MIT's Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Water Resources and Hydrodynamics and headed the Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Division of the civil engineering department.
Professor Bras, who holds a joint academic appointment in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, is associate director of the Center for Global Change Science.
He has been a member of the faculty since 1976 and holds three degrees from MIT, the SB and SM in civil engineering (1972 and 1974) and the ScD in water resources (1975). He was an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico before coming to MIT and has held visiting appointments at Universidad Simon Bolivar (Venezuela), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria), 1982-83, and the University of Iowa, 1989-90.
He is the author of two textbooks and three symposia proceedings and has written 67 refereed journal articles in hydrology, hydrometeorology and hydroclimatology.
He has been a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Hydrology and Water Resources Research. From 1989-91 he served as an advisory board member for the National Science Foundation's Engineering Directorate. He is a member of the National Research Council's Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, a member of the advisory subcommittee for NASA's Earth Sciences and Applications Division, and was a member of the Committee on Hydrology of the American Meteorological Society from 1988-90.
In June he will receive an honorary degree from the University of Perugia, Italy. Other honors include the Macelwane Award for significant contributions to the geosciences and the Horton Award, both from the American Geophysical Union (1982), a Guggenheim Fellow (1982) and the Winslow Career Development chair at MIT (1979-82).
A version of this article appeared in the June 3, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 33).