News | Futures in Transportation Program brings Transportation Research to Local Youth

Stop the Video



by Sue Dexter, USC, PhD Urban Planning and Development 2022

The University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering and Price School of Public Policy created and launched Futures in Transportation (FIT), a 4-part seminar series held in February for local high school juniors. Funded by the National Science Foundation and METRANS Transportation Consortium, the program aims to expose under-represented high school students to STEM-related research, emphasizing transportation and freight. FIT also encourages students to consider exciting transportation-related disciplines as they make education and career choice decisions. Eight students from Cabrillo (Long Beach), Narbonne (Harbor City), and Manual Arts (Los Angeles) high schools participated in the first offering of the program.

A series of online “open houses” was provided to the high schools showcasing the importance of freight and the future of transportation and recruiting for the program; a video by the Transportation Research Board highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the transportation arena how young people can get involved.

The program has four topic areas: supply chain management, autonomous vehicles, routing and scheduling, and clean fuels. Each topic was led by a different faculty member and coordinated by a team of students consisting of Sue Dexter, FIT Coordinator and USC Urban Planning and Development Ph.D. candidate; Diana Bonilla, 4th year USC Industrial and Systems Engineering undergrad; and Esmeralda Yzguerra, 2nd year USC Philosophy, Politics, and Law undergrad. The program also drew upon the expertise of Siyuan Yao, USC Industrial and Systems Engineering Ph.D. student; Robert Binder, USC Urban Planning and Development Ph.D. student; and Jared Paz, CSULB Business Administration undergrad, to showcase current USC research and lead activities.


Dr. Thomas O’Brien, Executive Director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation, led the first session introducing the students to supply chain management principles and freight types. Breakout sessions focused on global supply chains of Van tennis shoes and Reese’s peanut butter cups. USC Professor and Department Chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Petros Ioannou, introduced the students to autonomous vehicle technology challenges and benefits in the second session. A guest speaker from the self-driving truck maker TuSimple explained that their technology would be fully operational by 2024, with a few driverless trucks hitting the road this year. USC Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor and Department Chair Maged Dessouky ran the third session on routing that showcased a routing game developed by USC student Siyuan Yao and brought out the students’ competitive nature. In this game, students tried to minimize mileage and optimize routes for a hypothetical distribution operation. The last session, clean fuels, spearheaded by METRANS Director and Professor, USC Price School of Public Policy Dr. Genevieve Giuliano, rounded out the program with clean transportation solutions. The meeting featured two guest speakers from Volvo and USC’s Solar Car Team, where students learned about battery-electric trucks and solar-powered cars. Who knew that solar panels could power racecars?


About the Author:

Sue Dexter is currently a Ph.D. candidate at USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy, studying goods movement, urban spatial structure, and technologies to reduce carbon emissions. This interest stems from her concern for the environment, numerous years working in logistics, and living near the USA's largest port complex. Her dissertation investigates life-cycle impacts of alternative fuel heavy-duty cargo vehicles on greenhouse gas reductions, as well as impacts to firm operations.  She holds a master's degree from the London School of Economics in Operations Research, emphasizing network optimization, and serves on the Advisory Board for Cabrillo High School's Academy of Global Logistics (AGL) program.