Commencement Speaker

Reginald DesRoches
Reginald DesRoches

Reginald DesRoches

Reginald DesRoches is the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, as of July 1, 2017. He also holds joint appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice.

DesRoches previously served as chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), DesRoches’ research focuses on the design of resilient infrastructure systems under extreme loads and the application of smart and adaptive materials. He served as the key technical leader in the U.S. response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

DesRoches joined the faculty of Georgia Tech as an assistant professor in 1998 after completing his Ph.D. in structural engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2002 he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given to scientists and engineers early in their careers. He became a professor in 2008, and in 2012 was named the Karen and John Huff School Chair and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He led a top-ranked program with 100 faculty and staff and more than 1,150 students.

As chair, DesRoches oversaw a $13.5 million renovation of the school’s main facility. He doubled the number of named chairs and professors, developed a Corporate Affiliates Program, led a comprehensive strategic planning process and a strategic interdisciplinary research initiative, and guided the development of a new minor in global engineering leadership for undergraduates. He became Georgia Tech’s faculty athletics representative and helped formulate policies affecting intercollegiate athletics on campus. He has served as a thesis adviser to 30 doctoral candidates and 17 master’s students, authored and co-authored more than 90 articles. According to Google Scholar, his scholarly citations total 5,887.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and raised in Queens, New York City, DesRoches says his love of science and math led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Berkeley. He was there in 1989 when the San Francisco area was hit with a magnitude 6.9 earthquake and witnessed firsthand the damage to the infrastructure of the Bay Area.

DesRoches serves on the National Academies Resilient America Roundtable, the Board on Army Science and Technology, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Advisory Committee, the Global Earthquake Modeling Scientific Board, and the advisory board for the Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure, and Emergency Management Research Center. He chaired the ASCE’s Seismic Effects Committee and the executive committee of the Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering.

He has testified before U.S. House and Senate subcommittees on earthquake resilience and participated in Washington, D.C., roundtables for media and congressional staffers on topics ranging from disaster preparedness to challenges for African-American men in the STEM fields. He has a particular interest in mitigating the impacts of earthquakes in the Caribbean and Western Africa.

Among DesRoches’ honors are the 2015 ASCE Charles Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award, the 2007 ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, and the 2008 Georgia Tech ANAK Award, which is the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on faculty members. He was elected to the UC Berkeley Civil Engineering Department Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2015.

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