News | PSR UTC Recognizes Students of the Year for 2020

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PSR UTC Recognizes Students of the Year for 2020

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Pacific Southwest Region (PSR) University Transportation Center (UTC) starts the new year by honoring exceptional students from member institutions for their promise in the transportation field. Students – at all levels - are recognized for their technical and research merit, academic, and leadership capabilities.


Sam Speroni, doctoral student at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs is PSR’s 2020 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) University Transportation Center (UTC) Student of the Year. The U.S. DOT honors outstanding students from participating UTCs for their achievements and promise of future research and outreach contributions to the transportation field at the annual winter meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) hosted the 30th Annual UTC Program’s Students of the Year (SOY) Awards ceremony on January 6, 2021 to celebrate and recognize their accomplishments. At the virtual award ceremony, Speroni was also recognized as one of the two 2020 recipients of the Neville A. Parker Memorial Award for Policy and Planning for his noteworthy capstone project on “School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School in Los Angeles County.” This national award is given out by CUTC to two non-thesis master’s project reports in the field of policy and planning and science and technology.


In 2019, the PSR UTC established a new series of awards intended to recognize exceptional students for strong research and academic performance in undergraduate, graduate, community college, and professional development programs. This suite of awards honors students from a broad range of educational levels who have demonstrated promising leadership and contributions to academia or industry practice. The 2020 PSR UTC Students of the Year are:


  • Yougeng Lu, doctoral student in Urban Planning and Development at the University of Southern California (USC);
  • Bing Lin Nayang, graduate student in City/Urban, Community, and Regional Planning at UCLA;
  • David Lemcke, undergraduate student in Civil Engineering at Northern Arizona University; and
  • Faraz Bhatti, Global Logistics Specialist student from California State University, Long Beach College of Professional and International Education (CPIE).


Click here to watch a short video to learn about each of the 2020 PSR UTC Students of the Year recipients.


PSR UTC DOT Student of the Year and Neville A. Parker Memorial Award - Sam Speroni (UCLA)


Speroni is a UCLA doctoral student in Urban Planning and a researcher with the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies and UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. He received a Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning in June 2020. His thesis, “School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School in Los Angeles County,” examined federal education legislation which protects the right to school transportation for three vulnerable student populations: foster youth, students experiencing homelessness, and students with disabilities and how ridehailing offers a solution to this problem.


Speroni’s research interests include the intersection of transportation, education, and new mobility, in which he looks for ways to improve equitable access to educational opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged student populations. He is preparing for a career as a professor of transportation planning. His research extends to many other aspects of travel behavior and transportation systems, all with an emphasis on equity. Speroni’s professional experience encompasses both the transportation and education fields with a Transportation Planning Internship with WSP USA in June 2019, and IB Magnet Coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and Corps Members/ High School English teacher for Teach for America from June 2011 to June 2013.

PSR Doctoral Student of the Year - Yougeng Lu (USC)


Lu is a USC doctoral student in the Sol Price School of Public Policy and a Graduate Research Assistant for the METRANS Transportation Center. He received a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Washington in 2016 and a Bachelor of Science in Geography from Wuhan University, China in 2014. Lu has been granted several awards since the start of his academic career, which includes undergraduate scholarships from Wuhan University, a graduate fellowship, and a dissertation proposal defense stipend from the Price School.


Lu’s research interests include air pollution, environmental justice, land-use planning, geospatial analysis/GIS, transportation planning and policy, big data, social inequity, and public health and exposure assessment. Lu recently co-authored a METRANS research report titled, “Estimating hourly, PM2.5 concentrations at the neighborhood scale using a low-cost air sensor network: A Los Angeles Case Study.” This research focuses on predicting PM2.5 concentrations in air quality in California. In his research assistant position, Lu has become an integral part of other METRANS research projects such as building a database for the collection of real-time transit data as well as analyzing highway and arterial traffic impacts from the data.


PSR Master’s Student of the Year - Bing Lin Nyang (UCLA)


Nyang is a Master student in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Affairs from Yale-NUS College in Singapore in 2018. Nyang’s research focuses on the rise of rideshare and politics in urban development including topics such as, “Are Lyft and Uber Reviving or Hurting Shared Mobility?” and Calling Home: "Little Manila in Singapore.” She presented at the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium in 2018 on the topic of the intersection of politics and urban development in Singapore. The Symposium is the largest annual conference in Southeast Asia, organized by Oxford University and attended by political, business, academic and civil society leaders interested in Southeast Asia. In addition, Nyang has been actively extending beyond the classroom and was part of a comprehensive project studio team that produced a Complete Streets Project for Culver City, California. Her research interests focus on urban planning with the goal of making cities more just and inclusive through urban design, planning, and public policy.


PSR Undergraduate Student of the Year - David Lemcke (Northern Arizona University)


Lemcke is an undergraduate student of Civil Engineering student at NAU as well an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the NAU Department of Civil Engineering. Lemcke has co-authored various papers such as, “Examining the Use of Microsimulation Modeling to Assess Bicycle-Vehicle Conflicts at Intersections: A Case Study Incorporating Field-Observed Conflict Data,” “An Exploratory Parameter Sensitivity Analysis of Bicycle-Vehicle Conflicts using the Surrogate Safety Assessment Model,” and “Impact of Evolving Course Operational Changes on Student Outcomes in Transportation Engineering,” which were all presented at the 2021 annual Transportation Research Board Meeting.. Lemcke’s current research interests include smart cities and the microscopic traffic simulation software VISSIM.


Beyond his academic studies and research, Lemcke has been actively involved in multiple student organizations including the NAU student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). He also attended the 2019 ITE Western District Annual Meeting in Monterey, CA, and was set to attend and present at the 2020 PSR9 Congress in Honolulu, HI before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.


PSR Professional Development Non-Degree Program Student of the Year - Faraz Bhatti (CSULB)


Bhatti is a student in CSULB’s Global Logistics Professional Program offered by the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) and College of Professional and International Education (CPIE) Bhatti also won the Containerization and Intermodal Institute scholarship as part of its annual Connie Awards program in the fall of 2019 through his outstanding work and development in the GLP program. Prior to entering the Global Logistics program, he worked as a supervisor at L.N. Curtis & Sons, the largest firefighter equipment supplier on the west coast, and was previously employed as General Manager at Arabic Translation and Management Services (Arabic LTS), located in Los Angeles, and the former Head of the Language Department at Elixir Solutions in Saudi Arabia.


His deep commitment to both the GLP program and to his own professional development have allowed him to continue to advance within the transportation industry. Bhatti recently accepted an offer with ZPMC, the largest crane manufacturer in the world, as a Logistics Coordinator.



“We are very proud of our talented students and researchers,” said METRANS Director Genevieve Guiliano. “Working together, the UTCs continue to develop leaders in transportation who keep our mobility systems in step with our nation’s economic, environmental, and societal goals.”