Robert C. Viesca

Assistant Professor
Geosystems Engineering
Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Tufts University
207A Anderson Hall
200 College Avenue
Medford, MA 02155

tel: +1 617 627 5165
fax: +1 617 627 3994

Research interests

My interests and research are in problems of theoretical mechanics in earth sciences and engineering involving the fields of seismology, tectonophysics, civil and environmental engineering, ocean sciences, and hydrology. Work on earthquake mechanics has focused on the stressing and strength of faults as relevant to the nucleation of earthquake-generating or aseismic rupture, its propagation, and the deformation of the adjacent environment. Studies of earth surface processes include subaerial and submarine landsliding and the hydrologic processes that may lead to such failure or that may otherwise shape the land or seafloor environments.


Frederic Cappa, Pierre Dublanchet, John D. Platt, Dmitry I. Garagash, Nicolas Brantut, Elizabeth L. Templeton-Barrett, James R. Rice

Current members of the research group

(Visiting Assistant Professor, Aug.-Sept. '17) Pierre Dublanchet; Maître Assistant, MINES ParisTech; research interests include geology, solid earth geophysics, fault and rock mechanics, and induced seismicity.

Parker Aubin; B.S., Mathematics, minor Geological Sciences, Boston College; research interests include applied mathematics for geological and geophysical problems, instrumentation development and data analysis.

Pathikrit Bhattacharya; Ph.D., Geophysics, Princeton University; research interests include sliding friction, laboratory friction experiments, and implications for fault mechanics.

Sohom Ray; B.S., Physics, University of Delhi; M. Tech., Applied Geophysics, IIT Roorkee; research interests include sliding friction, nonlinear instabilities, and relevance of both for earthquake nucleation.

Lichen Wang; B.Eng, Geotechnical Engineering, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan; research interests include soil liquefaction, fracture mechanics and applications to slope stability, and geotechnical earthquake engineering.

Prospective members

Graduates interested in joining the group to pursue a Ph.D. or M.S. are encouraged to send an email and apply to join the department's Geosystems graduate program. See here for information on the application process.

Support for Tufts undergraduates is available through the Tufts Summer Scholars program. Support for department undergraduates is available from the Cataldo Fellowship (competitive process announced Spring term).

Recent and upcoming group presentations, travel, and seminars

Seminar: Ambient seismic noise interferometry and the continuous monitoring of high rise buildings, Aurèlien Mordret, 11 Apr. '17

Workshop on Scientific Exploration of Induced Seismicity and Stress (SEISMS), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, 29-31 Mar. '17

Seminar: Monitoring soil nonlinear effects from a megathrust earthquake using the ambient seismic field, Loïc Viens, 16 Mar. '17

Seminar: The spectrum of wind power fluctuations, Mahesh Bandi, 2 Feb. '17

AGU Fall Meeting 2016, 12-16 Dec. '16: R. C. Viesca and P. Dublanchet, "Slow slip and self-similar asymptotics of rate-strengthening faults," Abstract S43D-04

AGU Fall Meeting 2016, 12-16 Dec. '16: S. Ray and R. C. Viesca, "Slip-rate singularity under heterogeneous frictional properties, effective normal stress," Abstract S21B-2708

AGU Fall Meeting 2016, 12-16 Dec. '16: N. Brantut, J. D. Platt, and R. C. Viesca, "Flash heating, high velocity friction and the fracture energy of earthquakes," Abstract S32B-03

Dynamics of spatially-extended frictional interfaces, meeting for EU COST Action on Understanding and controlling nano and mesoscale friction, organized by Eran Bouchbinder, Weizmann Institute of Science: R. C. Viesca, 27-30 Nov. '16

Applied Mechanics Colloquium, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: R. C. Viesca, "A tale of two instabilities," 5 Oct. '16

Southern California Earthquake Center Annual Meeting: R. C. Viesca and P. Dublanchet, "Self-similar asymptotics of rate-strengthening faults," 10-15 Sep. '16

Workshop on the Processes that Control the Strength of Faults and Dynamics of Earthquakes: R. C. Viesca, "How coseismic weakening can be incorporated into earthquake models and linked with seismic data", 10 Sep. '16

Gordon Research Conference on Rock Deformation: S. Ray and R. C. Viesca, "Preferential locations of slip-rate instabilities on faults determined by heterogeneous frictional properties", 21-26 Aug. '16

GéoAzur (host: Frederic Cappa): R. C. Viesca, Visitor, 25-26 Jul. '16

École des Mines de Paris, Centre de Géoscience, équipe Géophysique (host: Pierre Dublanchet): R.C. Viesca, Professor Invité, 13 Jun. '16 - 13 Jul. '16

Royal Society Theo Murphy Meeting on Faulting, friction and weakening, 25-26 Apr. '16: R. C. Viesca, "State evolution, scaling, and diagnosing friction via interfacial rupture"

FISH Seminar Series, Earth Resources Laboratory, MIT, 1 Apr. '16: R. C. Viesca, "Of faults and faucets"


Viesca, R. C., Self-similar slip instability on interfaces with rate- and state-dependent friction, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 472(2192), 20160254, 2016. doi:10.1098/rspa.2016.0254 (pdf, suppl.)

Viesca, R. C., Stable and unstable development of an interfacial sliding instability, Physical Review E, 93(6), 060202(R), 2016. doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.93.060202 (pdf, suppl.)

Platt, J. D., R. C. Viesca, and D. I. Garagash, Steadily propagating slip pulses driven by thermal decomposition, Journal of Geophysical Research, 120, B12200, 2015. doi:10.1002/2015JB012200 (pdf)

Viesca, R. C., and D. I. Garagash, Ubiquitous weakening of faults due to thermal pressurization, Nature Geoscience, 8(11), 875–879. doi:10.1038/ngeo2554 (article, pdf, supp., addl. supp.)

Brantut, N., and R. C. Viesca, Earthquake nucleation in intact or healed rocks, Journal of Geophysical Research, 119, B11518, 2015. doi:10.1002/2014JB011518 (pdf)

Viesca, R. C., and J. R. Rice, Nucleation of slip-weakening rupture instability in landslides by localized increase of pore pressure, Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, B03104, 2012. doi:10.1029/2011JB008866 (pdf)

Viesca, R. C., The near and far of pore pressure during landslide and earthquake ruptures, Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University, August 2011. (pdf)

Viesca, R. C., and J. R. Rice, Elastic reciprocity and symmetry constraints on the stress field due to a surface-parallel distribution of dislocations, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 59, 2011, pp. 753–757. doi:10.1016/j.jmps.2011.01.011 (pdf)

Viesca, R. C., and J. R. Rice, Modeling slope instability as shear rupture propagation in a saturated porous medium, in Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences, 4th International Symposium, Austin, TX, 8–11 Nov. 2009., (eds. D.C. Mosher, R.C. Shipp, L. Moscardelli, J.D. Chaytor, C.D.P. Baxter, H. J. Lee, R. Urgeles), Springer, 2010, pp. 215–225. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-3071-9_18 (pdf) (presentation broadcast)

Viesca, R. C., E. L. Templeton, and J. R. Rice, Off-Fault Plasticity and Earthquake Rupture Dynamics, 2. Effects of Fluid Saturation, Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, B09307, 2008. doi:10.1029/2007JB005530 (pdf) (part 1: Templeton & Rice pdf)

Professional Appointments and Education

2012 - present, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University
2011 - 2012, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Civil and Resource Engineering, Dalhousie University (with Dmitry I. Garagash)
2011, Ph. D., 2006, S. M., Engineering Sciences, Harvard University (with James R. Rice)
2005, B.S., Civil Engineering, Tufts University
(see also curriculum vitae)

(Last update: 24 Mar. 2017)