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TRB Reflections: The role of communication in the future success of transportation - Sogand Karbalaieali

Being a Ph.D. student in transportation engineering means double the work in the summertime to meet the TRB deadline of August 1st.  I was in the midst of wrapping up several collaborations, submitting 3 papers for presentation on the Vehicle-Highway Automation, Safety Data Analysis and Evaluation, Data and Information Systems.  In the fall semester, I received an email from the ITE-student chapter announcing the NOCoE competition for transportation engineering students ePortfolio with research focused on TSMO.  It was a good opportunity to reflect on my research, to polish my resume, to design my own website, plus the possibility of an amazing award of a free trip to TRB.  Later on, I was delighted to find out that my submission was selected as one of the five winners of the competition. 

TRB is a fantastic venue to network with people, catch up with the most recent studies, present your research, connect with a mentor, interview for jobs, and attend committee meetings in your area of interest in transportation engineering.  I successfully covered many of these activities during my very first TRB Annual Meeting. My experience at TRB was a festive event, thanks to the NOCoE award.  On the first day, I had a great time at the first Careers in Motion Networking Fair where Mike Carragher, CEO at VHB, shared his networking tips and reassured us that being uncomfortable is OK. At the exhibition hall, we had a chance to meet with Doug Wiersig, Director of the City of Fort Worth. Doug shared with us about his experiences with old-school researching methods like the use of typewriter machines and ordering publications by mail! Later, I enjoyed meeting with Eric Rensel VP and Laurie Matkowski director of CAV at GANNETT FLEMING when we literally talked about everything from incident management to smart cities, the value of diversity in transportation, young researchers and professionals’ contributions to TRB, dire need of soft skills, and our dreams for the future transportation systems. Then Eric took us to AHB10 where Les Jacobson, VP at WSP, introduced us to many amazing TSMO people. Last but not least, Patrick Son, managing director at NOCoE, shared his impressive personal story which inspired me to start my career journey in transportation engineering. Adam and Patrick are exemplary professionals who have generously supported us (winners) on so many levels and I can't thank them enough.  These people valued diversity, creativity, and intellectual ability of us; the younger generation of transportation engineers. This acknowledgment created me the sense of belonging to the culture and to the community. Likewise, I am looking forward to contributing actively to the future success of transportation.

My TRB experience was indeed amazing as I was able to present my posters, meet geniuses in the field as well as reconnect with old friends.  NOCoE, however, gave me a brilliant opportunity to introduce myself as a future impactful crew member of transportation engineering.