Dr. Nick Z. Fang

Research Areas

Surface and groundwater hydrology, geographical information, flood warning and alert systems, flood control and water quality strategies, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling/design, stormwater management, pipeline systems, open channel flow analysis inland flooding induced by severe storm surge, contaminant transport mechanisms in groundwater, aquifer remediation strategies and modeling, and 2-D and 3-D visualization of fluid modeling.

Research Statement

Dr. Nick Z. Fang obtained his Ph.D. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University in May of 2007. He has been working on surface water and groundwater problems for over ten years including floodplain studies, hydrologic/hydraulic modeling, water treatment, hydrodynamic simulation, storm water management modeling, and water quality assessment for a number of watersheds and areas in Texas, Florida, Connecticut, California, and Louisiana. Not only has he accomplished many projects in drainage modeling and design, but he has also actively worked in the area of hydrologic/hydraulic analysis for flood prediction and warning in real-time mode. Dr. Nick Z. Fang has developed and enhanced a radar-based flood warning system to achieve more accurate and timely flood forecasts. He recently developed advanced features for a real-time flood alert system for the Texas Medical Center (TMC) based on the use of NEXRAD radar data. This system is currently delivered real-time on a web site (fas3.flood-alert.org) that has been tested on major flood events in Houston. This system has been operational during the last 40 storm events and successfully provided precise and timely information to the TMC emergency center. As a result of his work in the development of the advanced flood warning and control system for Houston and statewide model for Texas, Dr. Nick Z. Fang was funded by CASA, an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) to develop the next generation flood warning system by incorporating higher-resolution radar network and hydrologic/hydraulic prediction tools. His work is being expanded as a prototype to other flood-prone areas in the U.S. He had accomplished many projects for the United State Geological Survey (USGS), TxDOT, Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA), and City of Sugar Land in the past. Dr. Nick Z. Fang worked as the project manager and assistant to the director in the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) center at Rice University.

Dr. Nick Z. Fang has played key roles in the following development efforts and made significant contributions to the field of hydrologic modeling, flood forecasting, and flood alert.

  • In order to obtain reliable flood predictions to incorporate hurricane induced storm surges in Galveston Bay, Dr.Nick Z. Fang integrated storm surge model output with the revised hydraulic models within Geographic Information System (GIS) and NEXRAD radar data. This system is a powerful tool for predicting severe storm impact and will allow governmental agencies to make well-informed decisions on flood control, evacuation planning, and assist the allocation of funding for mitigation of flood problems caused by severe storm surge events.
  • Dr.Nick Z. Fang has developed a predictive floodplain library by integrating various flood profiles for three major bayous of Houston to delineate floodplains and quantify water surface elevations. He ran both the hydrologic and the integrated hydraulic models to delineate floodplain maps under various spatial and temporal conditions associated with rainfall intensities. He also helped design a unique computing algorithm to link up with appropriate flood maps dynamically based on actual rainfall measurements for the storm in progress. This new feature enables emergency personnel to determine likely inundations based on future rainfall patterns and begin flood preparations with as much lead time as possible. This will help reduce economic losses by taking strategic measures early in a flood disaster.
  • The traditional steady-state flood modeling method can cause up to several feet of error in elevation, which may result in huge economic and life losses during severe storm events, especially for areas with flat topographic conditions. To address this, Dr.Nick Z. Fang developed an unsteady-state model to depict dynamic changes of flow and stage hydrographs in magnitudes and timings, and is more realistic and precise in delineating floodplain maps than the traditional methods that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses. This unsteady-state modeling approach is a new contribution to federal flood control and management initiatives, and is the wave of the future.

Besides his strong background in surface and groundwater hydrology and hydraulics, experience in environmental engineering, Dr.Nick Z. Fang also possesses in-depth knowledge and experiences of hydrologic, hydraulic, and groundwater packages such as HEC-HMS, HEC-RAS, GW-Vistas, XP-SWMM, Visual MODFLOW, and ArcGIS. Additionally, he has investigated and modeled numerous groundwater contaminated sites in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Connecticut.