News | PSR Hosts 2021 Emerging Scholars Transportation Research Symposium

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by Zhaoyang (Zoey) Li, USC, Masters of Transportation Engineering 2021


The Pacific Southwest Region UTC (PSR) held its third Emerging Scholars Transportation Research Symposium (ESTRS) in a virtual format on March 2 and 3, once again presenting outstanding transportation research conducted by students. This annual signature event provides students the opportunity to present their research to a larger audience with diverse backgrounds in transportation and hear from some of the leading researchers and innovators in the field.


This event is held free of charge, typically on the University of Southern California (USC) campus, and is open to the public. This year, ESTRS was organized to be virtual to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions; the online format enabled more scholars and attendees from different locations around the world to join. This year, presenters were doctoral students from USC, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Hawaii, the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), and the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Students represented diverse disciplines including urban planning, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, and transportation science. PSR Director Dr. Genevieve Giuliano noted, “this diversity reflects the nature of transportation that is a field to be broad and multi-dimensional.”


PSR Director, Dr. Genevieve Giuliano, gives opening remarks


This year, the event included a total of ten student presentations, grouped in four themed sessions: Transportation and the Environment, Transportation and Nature Disasters, Freight Routing and Modeling, and Mobility. Each session included 2-3 students presenting their related research and discussing it with the discussants and attendees. The presentations range from emission related research and transportation epistemologies, flood mitigation and camp fire analysis, to freight movement modeling and mobility and travel behavior analysis. Discussions surrounding these hot topics related to transportation were expanded well between the presenters, discussants, and the attendees. Questions about the research methodologies, applications under current situations, and future research plans were discussed among scholars and professionals from different fields of expertise.


For each session, a distinguished discussant from the field of transportation was invited to moderate the session and interact with the presenters. The discussants include Dr. Genevieve Giuliano, also a professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy; Dr. Susan Handy, Director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation and Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis; Dr. Thomas O’Brien, Executive Director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB); and Dr. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Associate Dean and Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.


In addition to the student speakers, attendees hear from keynote speakers Senator (former) Fran Pavley and Dr. Susan Handy. Senator Pavley was elected the first mayor of Agoura Hills in 1982 and served 14 years in the California Assembly and the State Senate.

Dr. Susan Handy presents Day 1 Keynote     Senator Fran Pavley presents Day 2 Keynote


Dr. Handy's research focuses on the relationships between transportation and land use and on strategies for reducing automobile dependence; she shared her current research and future areas of research on travel speed, traffic congestion, and accessibility.


Pavley gave a detailed history of environmental legislation, and shared the connections of transportation and climate change from the perspective of policy and regulations.


Speaking about ESTRS, Pavley noted, “The diverse background in transportation is going to be critically important even more so in the future, since transportation has been a critical field especially in California, where all of the successes of reducing climate change impacts or helping clean up the air are directly related to transportation research.”


PSR looks forward to promoting more scholars who are the innovators, creative thinkers, and problem solvers emerging in the field of transportation and to making efforts to the development of transportation in the region, invite interested doctoral students to consider joining this event when it is offered again next year, and encourage anyone interested in cutting edge and innovative transportation research to attend.


About the Author:

Zhaoyang (Zoey) Li is a first-year graduate student in the Master of Science in Transportation Engineering program at USC Viterbi. She works as a writer, event associate, and social media lead for METRANS.