Student Spotlights
GaTech | NCSU | UNC — Chapel Hill

Alice GrossmanAlice Grossman

Alice is a second year student at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GaTech) working towards both her Master of Science and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Transportation. Supervised by Dr. Randall Guensler, she works on the research team that designed the Automated Sidewalk Quality and Safety Assessment System project. She has assisted in research plan design, data collection, and outreach and education efforts. She has also administrated the deployment organization for the project, which encompassed hiring and deploying undergraduates and developing data collection methodology, and serves as line supervisor to this undergraduate student research team. In addition to these duties, and is responsible in part for data analysis, focusing on analysis of expert survey results and variable weighting to evaluate thresholds for the sidewalk quality index.

According to Dr. Guensler, Alice will soon take the lead on two journal manuscripts (expected to be published in January), has won the best poster and Golden shoe awards, and has a number of recent publications (listed below) with more forthcoming. “Alice is a huge asset to our program,” Dr. Guensler wrote. “She is a natural leader.”

Of working with Dr. Guensler, Alice said that she greatly admires his “dedication to his students and his ability and enthusiasm to manage so many different projects that cross multiple spheres of transportation research areas.” She especially values Dr. Guensler’s willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to discuss any student research, classes, or other concerns. He continuously encourages Alice to take on new types of projects and deliverables and become more involved with the academic and professional community through project collaborations, meetings, and conference. These opportunities and her work with Dr. Guensler have taught her “how to navigate the world of academia.”

Alice considers one of the best features of the project to be the constant learning opportunities and challenges that working with variety of work and people provides. “If your research isn’t challenging,” she wrote, “you probably aren’t doing as much as you could be.” She values working with an interdisciplinary group of researchers, and cooperates with this team to constantly improve data collection and analysis methods, so that once the team has overcome a challenge, a new one surfaces to begin solving.

Alice aims to complete her master’s degree in Spring 2014, and then her Ph.D. in 2016. After graduation, she hopes to use the information and expertise she has gained during her time at GaTech in her career as an engineer. She hopes to work in an environment similar to the one she has appreciated so much during her graduate research to influence planning and policy to improve communities. She cycles as her primary mode of transportation and recreation, and also enjoys playing soccer and reading in her free time.

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Elizabeth HunterElizabeth Hunter

Elizabeth is a second year student at North Carolina State University (NCSU) earning a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, with a concentration in Transportation Systems. Working under Dr. Bastian Schroeder on a project entitled Livability Considerations for Simulation-Based Performance Assessment of Non-motorized Transportation Modes, Elizabeth assisted with various administrative responsibilities, such as recording meeting minutes, composing a literature review, collecting data, and compiling a spreadsheet of field data and video. She also edited an existing data collection manual to incorporate new elements established during the project, including procedures, variables, site selection, and field observations. According to Dr. Schroeder, Elizabeth was also instrumental in coordinating the NCSU activities with other STRIDE team partners at UAB and UF. Once they have completed the data collection, Dr. Schroeder and the project team plan to begin modeling.

Though she learned many valuable lessons during her time on the project, one of the most interesting is “that pedestrians (and drivers) will do strange things when they know a camera is there...we have one video clip where a young man shows off his skateboarding ‘moves’ (they're really bad).” She also enjoyed working with and getting to know Dr. Schroeder. “He is really easy to talk to,” Elizabeth wrote.

“Elizabeth has been a great asset to our project, being highly reliable, organized, and engaged in the subject matter,” Dr. Schroeder wrote. “As project principals, we are very fortunate to be able to support students like Elizabeth through this University Transportation Center, and are very appreciative of the support and opportunities offered to them by STRIDE.”

Elizabeth has honed her time management skills through her work on the project. In the Spring 2013 semester, she was juggling work on a second project, three graduate classes, acting as Vice President of the Tau Beta Pi (TBP) General Engineering Honor Society, and serving as a member of the NCSU ITE Student Chapter Traffic Bowl Team. Although she is only working on one project during the Fall 2013 semester, she is now the teaching assistant for a surveying lab, Graduate Chapter Advisor for TBP, Vice President of ITE, and ITE Traffic Bowl Team Captain. She has also begun work on her graduate thesis, in addition to taking two graduate courses. She hopes to finish her degree between May and August of 2014, at which point she plans to stay in Raleigh and find a job with a design firm. She enjoys spending her very rare free time at her apartment cooking and playing darts or Wii with her friends.

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Mathew PalmerMathew Palmer

Mathew—a second year doctoral student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—is the project manager for the STRIDE-funded Quantifying School Transportation Cost (QSTC) project, which is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina and the University of Florida. Since joining the project team in January 2013, Mathew has worked with Dr. Noreen McDonald and the rest of the project team, contributing to the design of the study, constructing the school transportation cost matrix, and collecting school travel data for recently built elementary schools in North Carolina. Having completed their data collection, the team is now beginning to analyze transportation costs across different schools.

Mathew feels that his work on the project has offered him perspective on the complex research challenges found in school transportation. He and his team encountered several challenges in the data collection portion of the research, which Mathew said served as “a reminder that the best laid plans don’t necessarily pan out once you’re in the field – you must be able to evaluate the critical components of the study and adapt as the situation dictates.” Mathew has been inspired by his work with Dr. McDonald throughout their time on the project. He admires her as a researcher who enjoys her work and produces high-quality research, and he values the trust Dr. McDonald puts into her team of research assistants to contribute to the project while providing the resources they need to excel as professionals. "Mathew's work on [this] project highlights the importance of the UTC program,” wrote Dr. McDonald. “As the lead research assistant on the project, he has developed technical and project management skills both of which will make him a successful transportation professional."

Mathew learned perhaps his most important lesson through multiple site visits, “Eastern North Carolina has, without question, the best strawberries anywhere.” Mathew plans to continue contributing to this project as he makes progress in his doctoral program, which is focused on transportation planning and community development. He is scheduled to take his comprehensive exams in spring 2014, and will then prepare to complete his dissertation a few years thereafter. When he is not completing research or course work, he can most likely be found spending time at the park or on a walk with his nine-month-old son, Henry (pictured).

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