Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl

College of Engeering, Computer Science, and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
Office Location: ET A-217 (Home Office)
Phone: (323) 343-4456 Email: [email protected]


I am an Associate 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 strictly 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, blast mitigation, fiber-reinforced polymers, reliability and finite element analysis, and green building materials and systems. Broader areas of interest are systems thinking, complexity, uncertainty, and the umbrella concepts of sustainability and resilience. At present, I have the following major research initiatives.

  1. 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.
  2. Together with Colorado School of Mines and Lehigh University, Cal State LA is part of a University Transportation Center for Underground Transportation Infrastructure (UTC-UTI). I am the Cal State LA coordinator for this center and PI/Co-PI on two projects: resilience and sustainability of UTI and fiber-reinforced, self-consolidated concrete for UTI applications. The other Cal State LA UTC-UTI projects are Big Data Analytics for UTI and Autonomous Crack Detection in Tunnels.

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

Schedule for Spring 2021

  • Office hours: MWR 11:30-14:30, TF 9:00-11:30 by appointment at
  • CE 3600 (Structural Mechanics I), asynchronous
  • CE 4650 (Seismic Design), mostly asynchronous, MW 15:00-16:20 otherwise
  • HNRS 1300 (Reading LA, Disasters and Resilience in Los Angeles), MW 16:30-17:45


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 then 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.


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. We are also part of the University Transportation Center in Underground Transportation Infrastructure (UTC-UTI) in conjunction with Colorado School of Mines and Lehigh University. The award runs through September 2022.

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?

Teaching and Advising

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 also teach 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.

I advise the EERI student group, which competes annually in the Seismic Design competition.

Professional Activities

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 and have contributed to the work of the Sustainability Committee of the American Concrete Institute (I was previously a member). I am a regular reviewer for the Journal of Structural Engineering and a member of the International Editorial Board of Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems.

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.

Additional Website: