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Andrea Rinaldo elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Andrea Rinaldo helped establish the new field of ecohydrology in the early 2000s. © Alain Herzog / 2018 EPFL

Andrea Rinaldo helped establish the new field of ecohydrology in the early 2000s. © Alain Herzog / 2018 EPFL

Professor Andrea Rinaldo, the director of the Laboratory of Ecohydrology in EPFL's School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the leading scientific societies in the world.

Andrea Rinaldo, a full professor of environmental engineering at EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, is among the newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Rinaldo helped establish the new field of ecohydrology in the early 2000s. This discipline bridges the divide between hydrology and ecology through engineering and science. In 2008, Professor Rinaldo set up the first ecohydrology laboratory in the world at EPFL. Since then, around ten universities around the world have followed suit.

Professor Rinaldo made a name for himself with his theory of optimal channel networks (OCNs), which draws on fluid mechanics, ecology and the geomorphology of river networks and rivers as ecological corridors for species, populations and pathogens. He employed this approach in his work on biodiversity preservation and waterborne epidemics. OCNs theory is now recognized as a prime research topic in ecohydrology.

ERC Advanced Grant in 2009
Professor Rinaldo’s ecohydrological study of waterborne epidemics earned him an ERC Advanced Grant in 2009. His laboratory used these funds to develop mathematical models for forecasting the spread of epidemics of cholera, schistosomiasis, together with diseases that decimate freshwater fish. EPFL’s Laboratory of Ecohydrology employs some 20 researchers, who spend some time out in the field in such places as Haiti, Bangladesh and Burkina Faso.

Professor Rinaldo followed in his father’s and grandfather's footsteps by studying civil engineering at the University of Padua, in Italy. He then completed his PhD at Purdue University in the United States. It was a talk called “Chaos in Rainfall” given by Professor Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that convinced Professor Rinaldo to focus his research on environmental science. After completing his PhD, he was appointed a full professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Trento in Italy. He held this position for six years before joining the University of Padova as a full professor.

Padua, MIT, Princeton and EPFL
Professor Rinaldo then worked as a visiting professor and research associate at MIT and Princeton University. After a little over ten years commuting between Padua and the United States, he joined EPFL, where he values the research environment and the school’s ideal location at the center of Europe. Professor Rinaldo is a member of numerous international academies, including the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Engineering and the US National Academy of Sciences.

Alongside his scientific career, Professor Rinaldo is a devoted rugby fan. Before going to university, he played on the Italian national rugby team in the 1970s. He continues to support his favorite sport and his country’s team as Board member of the Italian Rugby Union.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It has more than 4,600 members from all fields. Current members represent the sciences, medicine, social and human sciences, economics, public and government affairs and the arts and include more than 200 Nobel Prize laureates and 100 Pulitzer Prize winners. According to its bylaws, the Academy strives to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.”

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