Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl

College of Engeering, Computer Science, and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
Office Location ETA-217
(323) 343-4456

I am a Full Professor of Civil Engineering in Structural Engineering. My research, further detailed at, is divided into three broad areas. These are:

  • Earthquake- and Blast-Resistant Structures
  • Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure and Communities
  • Engineering Philosophy

The first area falls within structural engineering, the second expands into broader infrastructure issues, and the latter focuses on living well in contemporary times given the pace and promises of technological development. My core technical areas of expertise are earthquake engineering, structural testing, and blast mitigation. Broader areas of interest are systems thinking, complexity, uncertainty, the umbrella concepts of sustainability and resilience, and planetary limits.

We have installed a shake table for seismic testing using funds won by the NSF. We are operating the equipment regularly to become proficient in its operations. Following this commissioning period, the shake table will be available for use by researchers and industry.

This web page provides a brief overview of my research and teaching interests. Please visit for all the details.

Other links: LinkedIn - Google Scholar - - Research Gate -

  • Office hours: Th 2:00-3:00, email in advance to make sure I'm in the office; other hours, including Zoom meetings, are available by appointment
  • CE 2050 - TTh 10:50-12:05 ET A129
  • CE 3600 - TTh 9:25-10:40 ET A226

I was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at age eleven, not long after experiencing the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, possibly making that a key event in my future career path. I studied Civil Engineering at U.C. Berkeley (B.S. and M.S.). I also frequented philosophy courses. After earning the M.S. I worked at Wiss, Janney, Elstner in the San Francisco Area evaluating buildings and designing retrofits. I subsequently completed my Ph.D. and post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Diego, in the Department of Structural Engineering, where I focused on blast loading and advanced composites. In 2008 I joined the faculty of Oregon State University. In 2011 I started at Cal State LA and in 2016 I was awarded early tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. I spent the 2018-2019 academic year as a visiting researcher at the UNAM in Mexico. In 2021 I was promoted to Full Professor.

While the writeup below is generally correct, I am currently taking time to reflect on my priorities and future research directions.

My technical focus is in laboratory-based experimental testing of structural components and systems under seismic loading with interest as well in blast loading. I have a special interest in the seismic resistance of green construction technologies, a topic that I have explored both experimentally and computationally. On the Cal State LA campus, we have installed a shake table for seismic testing with funding from the National Science Foundation.

My interdisciplinary interests revolve around sustainability and disaster resilience. What does it mean to be sustainable? What is the structural engineer's role in sustainability? How are sustainability and disaster resilience related? What is the role of uncertainty, models, systems, and complexity in sustainability and resilience? How do we make effective decisions in the face of the extreme uncertainty faced with long-term problems?

I teach a range of classes in structural mechanics: statics, strength of materials, structural mechanics (I and II), concrete design, seismic design, and structural dynamics. Other classes taught at Cal State LA or elsewhere include programming, design of steel structures, and blast loading of structures. As with research, my teaching interests extend beyond technical topics. I have also taught a freshman-level, general education seminar class for the Reading LA sequence in the Honor's College. This class, which covers disasters and resilience in Los Angeles, is taught from a social science perspective. I have also been closely involved in the creation of the new engineering ethics course, which was co-developed with the Philosophy department.

From 2009-2015 I completed a six year term on the Sustainability Committee of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI). Within that committee I founded and chaired the Disaster Resilience Working Group. I am also active with the SEI Engineering Philosophy committee (currently the chair) and have contributed to the work of the Sustainability Committee of the American Concrete Institute (I was previously a member). I am an associate editor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems. I have recently become active in the Planetary Limits Academic Network.

I am a registered Civil Engineer in California and have completed Safety Assessment Program (SAP) training for post-earthquake evaluation of buildings. I have also completed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.