Faculty Spotlight: Navid Tahvildari, PhD, Old Dominion University


For Navid Tahvildari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU), the study of complex physics in coastal waters goes hand-in-hand with the study of vulnerabilities of built environment to natural hazards. Specializing in hydrodynamics, Tahvildari’s research interests span a number of different coastal processes and their impacts on coastal infrastructure. Using numerical models and analytical methods, he seeks to build better predictions of the impact of coastal storms under climate change and sea level rise for improving the resiliency of infrastructure and, importantly, the shorelines that are natural defense systems against coastal storms.

Some of these interests are reflected in Tahvildari’s MATS UTC and VDOT-funded project, Investigating the Vulnerability of the Transportation Infrastructure in Hampton Roads Region to Extreme Weather and Sea Level Rise. Together with colleague, Mecit Cetin, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at ODU, the team is using hydrodynamic modeling to capture the dynamic nature of flow over natural and urbanized landscape driven by storm surge, waves, and tides. Both the City of Norfolk and VDOT helped to identify critical and vulnerable areas prone to flooding. Simulations of storm surge flooding under low, medium and high sea level rise rates are currently underway. Ultimately, the goal is to provide accurate predictions of the time and duration of flooding in these areas to enable advanced warnings and traffic rerouting.

Tahvildari’s recent research also encompasses the concept of natural and nature-based shore stabilization measures. Using hydrodynamic modeling and field study, his research team is exploring the efficiency of wetlands and ‘living shorelines’, which integrate structural and natural features, to mitigate erosion and protect coastal communities. Working with ecologists, the research will contribute to development of design guidelines and help arm engineers, project planners and policy makers with information to implement sustainable approaches for shoreline damage reduction.

Currently advising two PhD and five masters students, Tahvildari works to ensure that research and practice keep pace with changing environmental and infrastructure conditions. He has introduced undergraduates to fluid mechanics. At the graduate level, he has taught classes on coastal hydrodynamics and sediment processes, dredging and beach engineering, and environmental fluid mechanics.

Tahvildari is one of several instructors from across the MATS UTC consortium involved with a graduate-level semester-long transportation sustainability course. Offered in the fall of 2015 and 2016, the course provides multi-disciplinary perspectives on a variety of tools, models, methods and best practices related to improving transportation systems. Tahvildari teaches a module on coastal infrastructure resiliency, focusing on the impact of coastal processes on transportation infrastructure. The module introduces coastal processes and the design of hard and soft coastal structures for shore protection. Students have the opportunity to consider risk and vulnerability of coastal transportation infrastructure to natural hazards and resilience of coastal systems under climate change and sea level rise.

Similarly, he worked with colleagues from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech to present workshops on the infrastructure impacts of sea level rise in the summer of 2015. Intended for students as well as transportation professionals and practitioners, the workshops provided a targeted assessment of the impact of sea level rise, covering topics such as climate change impacts, precipitation-driven flooding, stormwater infrastructure, coastal forces and sea level rise impacts on coastal infrastructure. The workshops addressed how engineering solutions can counteract these forces.

“Coastal engineering offers the opportunity to address real concerns about the vulnerabilities of our coastal infrastructure and assess the impacts of natural hazards on environment and society,” he explained. “Coastal engineers can work with other subdisciplines of civil engineering such as structures or transportation, and other disciplines from ecology to social sciences, to develop sustainable strategies that can address challenges facing our communities.”

Tahvildari earned a PhD in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University, an MSc in Civil Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and a BS in Civil Engineering from Tehran Polytechnic. Prior to joining ODU, he was a postdoctoral scholar in the Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at Stanford University.

He can be contacted at ntahvild@odu.edu.