Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Bras last year was appointed dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California at Irvine and is currently on leave from MIT. As the winner of the 2008-2009 James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award, he will speak on the topic of "Planet Water: Complexity and Organization in Earth Systems."
Bras' expertise is surface hydrology and hydrometeorology, and his work encompasses many aspects of the Earth's water cycle. He has contributed to significant international projects, including chairing a panel of experts overseeing the development and construction of tidal gates to protect the city of Venice against flooding. He has also pioneered ideas about how the deforestation of the Amazon will impact regional and continental climates.
Prior to assuming his duties last year at UC-Irvine, Bras had been the principal faculty organizer of the highly successful freshman "Terrascope" course and the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor in the departments of civil and environmental engineering and earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he came to MIT in 1968 as a freshman and stayed for his master's degree and PhD, joining the faculty in 1976. He has served as head of civil and environmental engineering and chair of the faculty.
Established in 1971 as a tribute to MIT's 10th president, the Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional accomplishment by an MIT faculty member. The winner delivers a lecture in the spring term. The event is free and open to the public.