Ben R. Hodges is a tenured Associate Professor in the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department (CAEE) at the University of Texas at Austin. His research is focused on water flow in natural and man-made environments, including flood analyses, storm water systems, river flows, lake dynamics, estuary circulation, and oil spill modeling. Research contributions include (i) new computational methods for efficient simulation models, (ii) geospatial analyses for translating high-resolution data (e.g. lidar) to practical model scales, (iii) wrapper systems for running multi-model simulations for oil spill uncertainty analyses.

Dr. Hodges’ favorite class to teach is Elementary Fluid Mechanics, a course that is typically taken by sophomores in the CAEE program. Fluid mechanics is the complement to Statics, Dynamics, and Solid Mechanics, that add the extra challenge to engineering analyses: “how do you analyze a system when you apply a force and it rapidly deforms?”

  • Post-Doctoral 1997-2000

    Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Physical Limnology

    University of Western Australia, Centre for Water Research, Supervisor: Prof: Jorg Imberger

  • Doctoral 1997

    Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

    Stanford University, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Supervisor: Prof. Robert L. Street

  • Bachelors 1984

    B.S. in Marine Engineering/Nautical Science

    U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point

VITA

Dr. Hodges was educated at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (BS), the George Washington University (MS), Stanford University (PhD) and the University of Western Australia (post-doc).  Since 2000, he has taught and conducted research in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on water flow and transport behavior in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and across the urban landscape.  Using advanced 1D, 2D, and 3D models, his research team and collaborators seek to understand these complex systems, where uncertainty and spatial and temporal variability of landscape, rainfall, runoff, wind, and sunshine all play roles in the flow behavior.

Dr. Hodges’ key research contributions have been in development of new methods for solving difficult computational problems in environmental fluid mechanics. A theme that runs through all his work is the development of modeling approaches that are theoretically sound and practical for studying real-world system. Recent work in collaboration with IBM Research Austin has led to an innovative crossing of disciplines (Hodges and Liu, 2014), using computational methods developed in microprocessor design to provide highly efficient solution of river network problems. These new methods will make it practical to model river flows over continental-scale networks with physics-based equations. Over the past several years, Dr. Hodges has developed a collaboration with the research team of Prof. Ran Li at the State Key Laboratory of Hydropower and Mountain River Engineering at Sichuan University, in Chengdu China. This collaboration focuses on the occurrence of gas bubble disease in fish downstream of dams; although the emergent problem is biological and chemical, the causes arise from the physics of hydropower dam spillways that create supersaturated dissolved gas concentrations. The team is developing environmental fluid mechanics models to help us understand these problems and develop engineering solutions.  A focus of Dr. Hodges’ latest work is on urban systems, including flooding, stormwater, and water distribution infrastructure. He is the Principal Investigator for the National Center for Infrastructure Modeling and Management, a 5-year project funded at $4 million by the US EPA to develop the next generation models of water distribution systems and stormwater runoff management.

Dr. Hodges didn’t originally focus his sights on either graduate school or becoming a professor. On finishing his B.S. degree and earning merchant marine licenses as 3rd engineer (unlimited horsepower, steam and diesel) and 3rd mate (unlimited tonnage, any oceans) he took a job with Sedco, Inc. – an offshore oil drilling company. There just weren’t any jobs on ocean-going ships! For the following year he worked on the Sedco 602 drill rig in the South China Sea. That year convinced him that, despite the money, the oil business just wasn’t his thing.  There followed a succession of jobs in a shipyard in Seattle, working on a tugboat along the U.S. Pacific coast, some unemployment, and work as a technician building control panels for heavy industry in Reno. After a few years he took up a position in the Washington D.C. area working for a defense contractor in engineering support for the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command. In the late 1980’s he started an M.S. program at night – mainly just to have something to do while his spouse was studying law. At that time, he was working with M. Rosenblatt & Sons, Naval Architects and Marine Engineers on piping systems for U.S. Navy ships, with a particular focus on the DDG 51 class of destroyers. Issues with seawater-compensated fuel tanks lead to a stratified flow laboratory experiment for his M.S. thesis, and convinced him that he really didn’t want to do any more laboratory experiments. At that point, he decided to go back to school full-time for a Ph.D. with an intention to return to industry as a Computational Fluid Dynamics guru. But at the end of his Ph.D. there came an unexpected opportunity to work with Jorg Imberger at the University of Western Australia as a post-doc.  Who could turn down a post-doc in Perth?  From the post-doc came an offer for a tenure-line position at the University of Texas and everything else follows from that.