Professor Rudnicki's research has been in the area of inelastic behavior and failure of solids, particularly, geomaterials. He has been especially interested in the development of localized deformation and in the effects of coupling between deformation and fluid diffusion, in connection with applications to the mechanics of earthquakes, energy storage and recovery, disposal of toxic wastes and geological sequestration of CO2.

Professor Rudnicki, a Fellow of the ASME, received the Daniel C. Drucker Medal from the ASME in 2011, the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal in 2008, the Maurice A. Biot Medal in 2006 from the ASCE for "For his fundamental contributions to the mechanics of porous media and its applications to rock mechanics and geophysics" and in 1977 the Award for Outstanding Research in Rock Mechanics from the U.S. National Committee on Rock Mechanics, for the paper "Conditions for the localization of deformation in pressure sensitive dilatant materials" (with J.R. Rice), J. Mech. Phys. Solids, 23, 371 394, 1975. In 2010 he named to Honor Roll for Faculty and Adminstrators by Associated Student Government of Northwestern University.

He has a held a variety of editorial and committee assignments. He has been a member (1997 - 2010) and Chairman (2008 - 2010) of the Geosciences Council for the Dept. of Energy Basic Energy Sciences, a member of the Advisory Council of the Southern California Earthquake Center (2005 -2010) and is currently a member of Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics.