Faculty Profile

Rafael O. Tinoco

Civil and Environmental Engineering
 Rafael O. Tinoco
Rafael O. Tinoco
Assistant Professor

Primary Research Area

  • Water Resources Engineering and Science


  • Ph.D. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 2011
  • M.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 2008
  • B.S. Civil Engineering, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 2005


Rafael O. Tinoco holds a Civil Engineering degree from the Universidad Nacional Aut￿a de M￿co (2005). He conducted his graduate studies at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, where he earned his M.S. (2008) and Ph.D. (2011) in Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology.

After graduation, Dr. Tinoco worked as a lecturer and postdoctoral associate at Cornell University, before taking a postdoctoral researcher position at the Environmental Hydraulics Institute of Cantabria. He later returned to Cornell University as a visiting instructor, teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses on fluid mechanics and transport and mixing processes, before joining the Faculty at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois during Fall 2015.

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, August 2015 - Present
  • Instructor, Cornell University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, May 2015 - July 2015
  • Visiting Instructor, Cornell University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, May 2014 - December 2014
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Environmental Hydraulics Institute of Cantabria, July 2012 - May 2014
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cornell University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, January 2012 - July 2012
  • Instructor, Cornell University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, August 2011 - December 2011

For more information

Professional Registrations

  • International Association of Hydrological Sciences, IAHS, 2008 - Present
  • American Geophysical Union, AGU, 2007 - Present

Research Statement

Dr. Tinoco's research focuses on the interactions between hydrodynamics and aquatic ecosystems. His research group employs state of the art experimental techniques coupled with high-resolution numerical modeling to solve fundamental questions about physical and biological processes on Ecohydraulics and Ecomorphodynamics. Understanding such complex phenomena allow us to develop solutions to environmental problems, such as stream restoration and coastal protection, with the objective to maximize both ecosystem health and the services provided by those ecosystems.

Research Interests

  • Tidal ecomorphodynamics: flow field and bed morphology evolution at the riverine-tidal interface.
  • Development, testing and optimization of technologies for renewable energy.
  • Machine learning: application of genetic programming and artificial neural networks on environmental flow problems.
  • Development and application of novel experimental facilities and instrumentation for characterization of mean and turbulent properties of environmental flows, both in the laboratory and in the field.
  • Biomorphodynamics: short and long-term effects of biota on sediment dynamics on wetlands, marshes, and coastal areas.
  • Hydrodynamics of aquatic ecosystems: effects of vegetation density and morphology on mean and turbulent flow under unidirectional, oscillatory and combined conditions.
  • Fish and larvae response to turbulent flows.
  • Ecohydraulics: flow-ecosystem feedbacks and interactions.

Books Edited or Co-Edited (Original Editions)

Selected Articles in Journals

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • Harder, L.F., Rutherford, C.J., Bernhardt, M.L., Gamez, J., Lobbestael, A., Mofarraj, B., Musgrove, M., Pinter, N., Rosenblad, B., Tinoco, R.O., & Uong, M.D. "Preliminary observations of levee performance and damage following the 2015-16 midwest floods in Missouri and Illinois", Annual Conference of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, Philadelphia, PA, September 2016.
  • Tinoco, R.O., & Coco, G. "Erosion control by coastal vegetation: An experimental investigation", Accepted abstract, IAHR 27th Latin American Hydraulics Congress", Lima, Peru, September 2016.
  • Cowen, E.A., Schweitzer, S.A., Citerone, V.R., King, A.T., Johnson, E.D., & Tinoco, R.O. "Exploiting Surface Turbulence Metrics and Secondary Flows in Straight River Reaches and Open Channels", 8th International Conference on Fluvial Hydraulics-River Flow 2016, St Louis, MO, July 2016.
  • Tinoco, R.O., & Coco, G. ￿A laboratory study on sediment resuspension within arrays of rigid cylinders￿, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 18 2015.
  • Muriel, D., Tinoco, R.O., & E.A. Cowen. ￿The Filardo Pump: a self-powered water pump and its applications for renewable energy￿, Congreso Latinoamericano de Hidr￿ica, Santiago, Chile, August 2014.
  • Tinoco, R.O. & Coco, G. ￿On the onset of sediment motion and resuspension in the presence of submerged cylinders￿. Ocean Sciences Meeting, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 2014.
  • Tinoco, R.O., Cowen, E.A. & Coco, G. ￿Flow and drag on submerged obstructions: from flow through aquatic vegetation to sediment transport in communities of benthic organisms￿. 8th Symposium on River, Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics, RCEM 2013, Santander, Spain, June 2013.
  • Coco, G., Olabarrieta, M. van Maanen, B., Zhou, Z., Tinoco, R.O. ￿Morphodynamics of tidal networks: advances and challenges￿, Invited talk, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 7, 2012.
  • Cowen, E.A., Tinoco, R.O., Muriel, D., Holst-Warhaft, G., Steenhuis, T.S., Filardo, B.P. & Shan, B. ￿Development of a low-cost, robust, sustainable water-powered pump￿. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Sustainability Panel, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, October 26, 2012.
  • Tinoco, R.O. & Cowen, E.A., ￿Experimental study of vegetated flow: Three-dimensional flow structures and direct measurement of drag in aquatic canopies￿, Coherent Flow Structures in Geophysical Flows at Earth's Surface, Burnaby, BC, Canada, August 4, 2011.

Other Publications

  • Tinoco, R.O., 2011. An experimental investigation of drag and the turbulent flow structure in simulated and real aquatic vegetation. Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University.
  • Tinoco, R.O., 2008. An experimental investigation of the turbulent flow structure in one-dimensional emergent macrophyte patches. M.S. Thesis, Cornell University.
  • Tinoco, R.O., 2005. Externalidades ambientales en las obras de Ingenier￿Civil (Environmental externalities in civil engineering projects). B.S. Thesis, UNAM, in Spanish

Magazine Articles

  • Tinoco, R.O., & Jaime, A., 2005. La carrera de Ingenier￿Civil: una prospectiva (Expectations of the programs of Civil Engineering). Civil Engineering Journal from the CICM, 425(52), September 2004, in Spanish.

Professional Societies

  • International Association of Hydrological Sciences, 2008-present
  • American Geophysical Union, 2007-present

Service on Department Committees

  • Coordinator of EHHE PhD Qualifying Exam for 2016

Other Honors

  • Augusto Gonzalez Linares Fellowship to attract international talent in strategic areas, University of Cantabria, Spain (2012 - 2014)