News | The Transportation Planning Racquet: UC Irvine PhD Pulls Double Duty in the Lab and on the Badminton Court

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by By: Drew Quinn, USC 2019

UC Irvine Electrical Engineering and Computer Science PhD Student Anthony Lopez became interested in transportation upon commencing his doctoral studies at UCI when he and a lab mate began to work on a project dealing with wireless communication security for intelligent transportation systems and the future of connected vehicles. “This sparked my interest in the dynamics of automotive and transportation systems,” said Lopez, a native of Redlands, California with a computer science degree from UC San Diego. Yet, long before focusing on the movement of people and goods, aiding transportation system designers (specifically traffic controllers) with tools that they may use to enhance the security of their systems, and prototyping the code for an electric skateboard motor controller at a student-based start-up called Slithr Vehicles, Lopez developed an interest in the movement of something else: badminton.

“I fell in love with [badminton] immediately,” Lopez revealed. He explained that he was first introduced to the sport during his sophomore year of high school and that he values the game because badminton requires strong mental fortitude, agility, flexibility, endurance, and physical strength in the core and legs. “Not only do you need to have your body completely ready to react to every shot, but you must also be able to carefully predict and strategize what you should do next in a high paced and grueling rally,” he added.

In this way - that is, predicting and strategizing for future variables -  transportation and badminton are much alike. To accommodate these two interests and balance his time Lopez makes sure to spread out his academic work around planning, attending, or coaching practices and competitions. On the days where he does not have practice, he makes sure to be productive and capitalize on the reprieve. On days where he does have practice, he finishes as many subtasks as he can with the limited time. If forced to make a choice, Lopez asserted, he would definitely miss a practice or a competition to finish a task.

Nevertheless, it is deeply important to Lopez to maintain both interests as he strongly believes in the ancient Greek concept of having both a fit body and mind and that, since research can be quite stressful and burdening, having extracurricular passions and skills can be strongly beneficial for relieving stress and burdens from a student and facilitating the achievement of great results in the lab, like his developing of an IOS application for the Cyberinfrastructure for Phylogenetic Research Science (CIPRES) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. He added, “these passions can... improve health and mental fortitude, and even help the student/scholar come up with new ideas; a change of environment tends to help with this.”

“I have had many memorable and funny experiences over ten years of practicing and playing badminton”, offered Lopez. He listed some of his most memorable experiences: the various tournament victories that his partners and he achieved across all events (singles, doubles, and mixed doubles), the intense and grueling matches with strong opponents that pushed him to his limits, the friends he made throughout practices and competitions, and the bonding moments he has had with all the teams that he has been a part of from high school in San Diego, through his academic career at UCSD, and now at UCI. Despite these good times Lopez made sure to add, “at the end of the day, the career is most important and the passion/skill should be there to keep the student/scholar stable, healthy, and happy.”

About the Author:

Drew Quinn is a Master of Planning student at the University of Southern California with a concentration in Transportation. Originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mr. Quinn received a B.A. in History from The George Washington University in Washington, DC and has previously lived in Philadelphia and Madrid. Mr. Quinn serves as the Lead Editor for METRANS on the Move and is also the President and Founder of Trees by Trojans, a service organization at USC dedicated to increasing the distribution of green infrastructure in South Central LA.