The Engineering Mechanics Institute, part of ASCE, presents the von Karman Medal annually to one person “in recognition of distinguished achievements in engineering mechanics.”
A 33-year member of the Harvard faculty, Rice has devoted recent decades of his career to studying the mechanics and physics of Earth and environmental processes. His research has elucidated fundamental processes in geophysics—such as stressing, deformation, fracture, and flow—to address problems in seismology and tectonophysics, glaciology, and surface geologic processes, as well as in geomechanical and hydrological aspects of civil and environmental engineering. He has studied and modeled phenomena along fault systems, during landslides, and within the great ice sheets.
His research has made important theoretical contributions to the study of deformation and failure in earth materials and, in earlier decades, in metallic engineering materials, at times launching entirely new fields of study. His most recent work delves further into the causes of earthquakes and tsunamis, the melting and calving of glaciers, transitions from landslides to debris flows, and new computational modeling techniques with broad applications.