Adrian Mikhail Palaci Garcia

PhD Student -- Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, MIT-WHOI Joint Program

BSc -- Civil Engineering (2016), University of Pittsburgh



I am a first-year PhD student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Applied Ocean Science & Engineering this Fall 2017. My goal is to become a professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering with a focus on Environmental Fluid Mechanics. In my research, I want to pursue projects that use physics and natural science to understand environmental processes and dynamics. As a member of academia, I want to increase STEM awareness and participation amongst under-represented groups through educational outreach.


I am interested in understanding the driving mechanisms in the flow through different estuarine morphologies. Through my research, I hope ultimately to contribute to stream and coastal restoration, with a focus on nature-based solutions. There is beauty in the simplicity and functionality of Nature, a design built on over 4 billion years of trial-and-error. It is imperative that we understand and capture these natural designs to work with them, rather than against them, as we consider the future of riverine and coastal infrastructure.

Current Project

North River

I am working under the direction of Rocky Geyer and post-doc Wouter Kranenburg on investigating the influence of curvature on the flow structure and stratification of a tidal meander. The North River is located centrally between Woods Hole & MIT. This estuarine system displays a variability of stratification ranging from stratified to well-mixed, and it has a meandering channel morphology. Ultimately, we also want to investigate the effects of secondary flows and how they affect the stream-wise dynamics of this estuarine system.

Undergraduate Projects

With climate change and increased anthropologic activities on the rise, the coasts will face higher threats. Researchers are considering many forms of "green infrastructure" to protect against storm surge, including coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangrove trees. Mangroves are able to dissipate wave energy because of their complex prop root system. Under the direction of Dr. Heidi Nepf, I conducted experiments to determine the drag coefficient of mangrove trees. The drag coefficient is important to calibrate numerical models that can be used to plan future mangrove reforestation projects.

Rhizophora mangle can grow in a variety of environments, including saltwater, freshwater and brackish water

The experiments were conducted in a flume with 32 1/12-scale model mangroves.

I presented this research at the poster session of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summer Research Program.

This research was performed under the direction of Dr. Jorge Abad. Through ArcGIS analysis, I have been creating a baseline study for the morphodynamics of the Peruvian Amazon River by performing a spatial and temporal analysis of the river system from 1985-2010. The purpose of this research is to understand the migration of the river and the processes that form the river's unique geomorphic characteristics. This research will be important for future development in the Amazon region, because the migration of the river will have huge implications on navigation and accessibility.

The Peruvian Amazon River develops a unique anabranching structure to dissipate the large amounts of energy that is transported through its channels.

Water level fluctuations are incredibly apparent during the dry season when the channel bars are exposed.

In a field campaign to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve during the CREAR-ED-SPA course, I learned about vegetation in the Amazon.

>My senior design group worked in partnership with the Pittsburgh Office of the American Rivers organization to perform the design work necessary for the permitting process to remove the Franklin-Glass Dam in Renfrew, PA. This dam, located on Connoquenessing Creek just downstream of the junction with Thorn Creek, is being removed to restore the river to free-flow conditions, allowing for improved fish passage and sediment transport. This project was incredibly multi-disciplinary, requiring work in hydraulics, ecology, environmental engineering, and construction management.

We need to survey the cross sections of the creek both upstream and downstream of the dam.

This dam, built nearly 100 years ago, needs to be removed because it is obsolete and harmful both to the ecology and kayakers.

My team worked with scientists and engineers from the PA Fish & Boat Commission and the PA Department of Environmental Protection to satisfy permitting requirements.


SHPE Engineering Science Symposium 2016

Garcia, A.P. & Nepf, H.M. (Nov. 2016) An experimental study of an artificial mangrove forest: Determination of drag and turbulence. Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers: Engineering Science Symposium. Seattle, WA.

Conference Paper, Oral Presentation

Best Paper in Agricultural, Civil, Environmental and Biological Engineering

Congreso Latinoamericano de Hidráulica 2016

Garcia, A.P. & Abad, J.D. (Sep. 2016) The Morphodynamic Evolution of the Peruvian Amazon River: A Satellite Image Analysis. XXVII Congreso Latinoamericano de Hidráulica. Lima, Perú.

Conference Paper, Oral Presentation (Spanish)

River, Coastal, and Estuarine Morphodynamics 2015

Garcia, A.P., Abad, J.D., Ortals, C., Frias, C. (Aug. 2015) Insight on the Peruvian Amazon River: A Planform Metric Characterization of its Morphodynamics. River, Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics. Iquitos, Peru.

Poster Presentation, 1-minute pop-up talk

Conference Staff

  • Registration Table
  • Moderator for Oral Sessions
  • Announcer for Key Note Sessions

American Geophysical Union 2014

Garcia, A.P., Abad, J.D., Ortals, C., Frias, C. (Dec. 2014) Insight on the Peruvian Amazon River: A Planform Metric Characterization of its Morphodynamics. American Geophysical Union. San Francisco, CA.

Poster Presentation


During my undergraduate journey, my involvement in diversity programs was integral to my development. Through these programs, I encountered mentorship, support, relationships, and opportunities that have defined my academic experience. I value diversity because of the perspectives I have learned from embracing the collective experience I have had with my peers and mentors alike.


garciaap (at) | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139