Behrooz Ferdowsi, Ph.D.


*** This page is not updated in recent times. I have joined (on September 1, 2021) the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Houston as an Assistant Professor. Please see the Ferdowsi Research Laboratory's website at the University of Houston in the following address: ***


Welcome to my homepage! I am Behrooz Ferdowsi (he/they), currently an Associate Research Scholar in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. Previously, I was a Harry H. Hess Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019) at Princeton Geosciences. I am primarily working with Professor Allan M. Rubin on developing constitutive laws for rock friction, and on revisiting the physical basis for an existing empirical constitutive modeling framework for frictional behavior of rocks and other Earth materials, known as the "rate- and state-dependent friction" framework. I am also collaborating with Professor Rubin on further understanding the origins of slow slip events (also known as slow earthquakes). My research is currently supported by funds from the U.S. Army Research Office, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. National Science Foundation, for all of which I am very grateful.

Before coming to Princeton in June 2017, I was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Sediment Dynamics Laboratory (PennSeD) and a Synthesis Postdoctoral Fellow of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED) (February 2015 to May 2017). At PennSeD, I worked with Professor Douglas J. Jerolmack (UPenn, Earth and Environmental Science) on sediment transport in gravel-bed rivers and mountain hillslopes, subsurface to surface evolution of riverbeds, and geophysical landscape evolution. I earned my PhD (Dr. sc.) in September 2014, from ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

As a person whose research and academic endeavors have been adversely affected by factors related to my national origin which is clearly out of my own control (see note* below), I am strongly committed to and actively involved in academic and educational activities that can help to improve the current situation in Geosciences and STEM fields in the US, toward building more inclusive environments for persons of all genders, backgrounds and national origins, increasing of diversity, and broadening the participation and advancement of under-represented groups and minoritized persons in Geosciences and STEM fields.

* Because and only on the ground of my national origin, I experienced a one-year-long postdoc visa delay when moving for my first postdoc to the US. I have been then subjected to the US President's Travel Ban from January 2017-January 2021, on the ground of my national origin, while I was studying and doing research for my first postdoctoral appointment in the US. During this period of time, I was prohibited by the US government from any travel including for visits, faculty job interviews, meetings and conferences anywhere outside the United States of America, and suffered significant anxieties, uncertainties, and feelings of exclusion and racism from the country I was living and working in toward myself (and people like me). During this period, I also had to miss on and decline several excellent and exciting opportunities that could have significantly influenced and enriched my scientific trajectory, and that persons from other nationalities would have otherwise enjoyed exploring and benefiting from. This is just one very serious example of the effects of a discreminatory policy, while many other similar policies, actions, systemic barriers, exclusionary practices, and racism exist that further hinder and suppress progress and competitiveness of people of minoritized and/or under-represented backgrounds, in an extremely competitive and dynamic scientific scene.

The Land on which Princeton University stands is part of the ancient homeland and traditional territory of the Lenape people. We pay respect to Lenape peoples past, present, and future and their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout the Lenape diaspora.


Research interests

My research activities and interests are at the interface of Computational Sciences and Computational PhysicsMechanics of MaterialsGeophysics, and Soft and Granular Matter Physics. I work on longstanding and exciting problems in areas such as friction and rheology of Earth materials, rock mechanics, soil and sediment mechanics, and soil and sediment transport. For my research I use a rather broad range of tools (but clearly leaning toward computational, analytical, and physics-based modeling methods) and work to develop a theoretical understanding or a physical phenomenology and intuition about a variety of empirical observations related to Solid Earth Geoscience broadly, i.e. Earth's near-surface and subsurface processes. Why developing such understandings is interesting and necessary? Because once we have such understandings, the task of connecting or unifying different observations (at different laboratories, for diffferent materials, mechanical and loading parameters, at different locations and environments) will likely become mathematically feasible. This then allows us to better quantify the degree of predictability or the uncertainty in our predictions (of past, present or future response of systems, e.g. transport of sediments and complex fluids near the Earth's surface, glaciers sliding, earthquake and landslide hazards). Such understanding is also among the first steps toward developing accurate physics-based modeling tools and approaches.

To make substantial scientific advances in many of the aforementioned areas, we also need new developments in applied mechanics, applied mathematics, and observational and computational methods, driven by laboratory and field-based experiments; that is the direction I am moving toward. I am also looking forward to and excited for collaborating with a broad and diverse group of scientists and engineers in this endeavor. Some of my more specific interests include, but are not limited to:

  • Frictional behavior and rheology of Earth materials near the Earth's surface and within the shallow crust, in dry, fluid-saturated, and unsaturated conditions;
  • Micromechanics of shear banding, strain localization, and stick-slip instabilities in granular (geomaterials) and more broadly amorphous materials;
  • Development of constitutive laws and equations of state for Earth and planetary materials, and further understanding the molecular or statistical mechanical theory behind those constitutive equations (that are otherwise some educated guesses);
  • Computational physics in geosciences, geophysics, and engineering: continuum (finite elemenet method, boundary element method, computational fluid dynamics method), discontinuum (discrete element method, molecular dynamics), and coupled modeling approaches (computational fluid dynamics coupled to discrete element method);