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Indo-US Forum Attracts Students to Region VII

by Aaron Mack


This summer, four students from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) became visiting MATC researchers as part of a student exchange research program sponsored by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum. Helen Thomas and Jijo Mathew are master’s students in transportation engineering at ITT Madras; Anusha S.P. and Vincy Varghese are pursuing their doctoral degrees in the same program. The forum is intended to provide students with an international perspective on transportation networks, infrastructure, technology and research practices, and to encourage collaboration and technology transfer on an international scale. The students were hosted by the Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC), located on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), MATC's lead Region VII university.

The students, each with a research focus on traffic analysis, spent six weeks working with Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) data and equipment at NTC’s newly remodeled and revamped ITS laboratory at the Whittier Research Center. They collected and analyzed traffic data under the guidance of Dr. Laurence Rilett, MATC Director and Keith Klassmeyer Professor of Civil Engineering at UNL, and Dr. Anuj Sharma, UNL Associate Professor of Civil Engineering. Both Rilett and Sharma are internationally recognized experts in ITS and traffic analysis applications.

The new and improved ITS lab is equipped with the latest in software and equipment for traffic data collection and analysis, which, the students said, served to enhance their research experience.

“You have a great lab here,” Varghese said. “Good data, and the software is more sophisticated, faster. Easier to work with.”

“The lab is awesome,” remarked Thomas.

When interviewed on their last day in Lincoln, the students discussed the value of their time spent abroad, noting the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Indian transportation infrastructures, and reflecting on the benefits of their time spent working among UNL's faculty and advanced technological resources.

“We had very good guidance,” S.P. remarked. “Because it’s a research program, we had lots of access to faculty and advisers. I think the thought processes and brainstorming sessions were a lot different, as well as the way we were interacting with the data collection resources here, and different types of analysis procedures. It’s an additional advantage having been here.”

"Traffic is very different here,” said Mathew. Coming here I got to research something extremely different, so that’s huge for me. And it’s been a wonderful experience for me. … Everybody greets you with a ‘hi.’”

Thomas remarked, “Visiting the U.S., I was exposed to a different style of work and research. I think that here, research is on a somewhat faster track. My exposure to the lifestyle and culture here will be an important factor for me in deciding whether to pursue my Ph.D. in the U.S.”

The forum will conclude this December, when students and faculty from Region VII and partnering Purdue University will travel to IIT Madras to attend an upcoming workshop on Intelligent Transportation Systems technology and applications.