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Mid-America Transportation Center

Student of the Year
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Elisa Vasquez – UNL MS

The 2019 Mid-America Transportation Center Student of the Year Award presented by the Council of University Transportation Centers is given to a driven, professional, and accomplished graduate student from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Elisa Vasquez.

Ms. Vasquez graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in 2018 and went beyond the classroom by serving as an academic tutor, a supplemental instruction leader, and working as an undergraduate research assistant in engineering. At UNL she works at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) as a graduate research assistant in the area of finite element analysis for crash testing analysis. She is on track to graduate from UNL with her Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics in May 2020.

Upon graduation she plans to pursue a career in the private sector with a broad interest in infrastructure systems. More specifically, she plans to research finite element analysis as it pertains to roads. Her thesis works to develop an accurate model of a MASH Test Level 6 vehicle for LS-DYNA simulations and to develop a new MASH TL-6 barrier.

Dr. Cody Stolle, UNL Research Assistant Professor at MwRSF, recommended her for the SOY award because “Elisa demonstrated the willingness to put in significant work and is proud of the caliber of the research she performs.” Her professional, prompt, and respectful demeanor has allowed her to be successful in her research and help with STEM outreach programs.


Ricardo Jacome – UNL MS

The Mid-America Transportation Center is honored to present the 2018 Outstanding Student of the Year Award to Ricardo Jacome. MATC selected Ricardo, who attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), for his excellent academia and research in vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, connected and automated vehicles, and curve design.

Ricardo earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 2017 at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley with the Summa Cum Laude Honors. During his undergraduate career he interned at the Nebraska Transportation Center in 2015 and researched the effect of railway slopes on stability and safety of vehicles.

Ricardo is currently a graduate research assistant at NTC’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF), where he led a crashworthiness analysis of full-scale crash test data. He has also worked on a virtual lane-keeping system to alert drivers as part of MATC’s “Smart Barrier Systems” project. Ricardo is an advocate for MwRSF and has recruited other students to come to UNL and study at the organization. His advisor, research assistant professor Dr. Cody Stolle insists he is “confident that [Ricardo’s] determination, persistence, and willingness to tackle new challenges will propel him to a leadership position and excellence in the field of automobile design and analysis.”

After graduation, he plans to pursue a PhD in Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MME) at UNL and subsequently a career in academia with a focus on vehicle dynamics and safety.


Tiffany Treviño - UNL MS

The Mid-America Transportation Center is proud to recognize Tiffany Treviño as the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Student of the Year award. Ms. Treviño is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), where she conducts research on traffic calming devices, speed tables, roadway curves, and vehicle dynamics.

Ms. Treviño has participated in several leadership organizations, including Material Advantage and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and acquired significant research experience. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Ms. Treviño participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates 2015 and 2016 summer program, sponsored by the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety. During this time, she studied finite element analysis, learned new software, and analyzed 1/8 symmetric rail car tank models at the Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC).

Currently, Ms. Treviño is a Graduate Research Assistant at NTC’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF). Her thesis research investigates the optimal placement of speed tables on roadway curves in order to disrupt or delay threat vehicles without the occupants of non-threat vehicles experiencing excessive discomfort. According to her advisor Dr. Cody Stolle, MwRSF Research Assistant Professor, “Tiffany is an exceptional worker,” who “demonstrates a firm grasp on critical material, integrates new knowledge quickly, completes challenging tasks in a timely manner, and maintains a positive, optimistic, and encouraging attitude.”

After completing a Master of Science degree in December 2018, Ms. Treviño plans to begin a career as an engineering professional in the public or private sector.


Ana Guajardo – UNL MS

The Mid-America Transportation Center honored Ana Guajardo with the 2015 MATC Outstanding Student of the Year award for her academic dedication and excellence. Guajardo is pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

As an undergraduate from the University of Texas-Pan American (now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), Guajardo’s interest in UNL stemmed from her participation in the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety’s Research Experience for Undergraduate Students 2014 summer program under the supervision of the Nebraska Transportation Center.

Currently, Guajardo is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF), where she assists with transportation-safety research. Her faculty mentor, MwRSF Research Assistant Professor Dr. Cody Stolle, describes her as “quick to adapt to circumstances and new material,” and adds that “her positive attitude encourages others around the office to work harder.”

Her work with MwRSF on two Department of Defense projects, related to traffic calming measures for military bases, has become the focus of her thesis. Her substantial contributions to these projects include analyzing threat and non-threat vehicle reactions to passive safety measures using computer simulation and analytical methods, and setting up physical tests to calibrate and validate the computer models.


Nassim Sabahfar - KSU PhD

The Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) is pleased to award Ms. Nassim Sabahfar the MATC 2014 Outstanding Student of the Year award. Sabahfar is a PhD student in Civil Engineering with a focus on Material and Transportation Engineering at the Kansas State University (KSU).

The key research of her doctoral studies, "Effect of Asphalt Rejuvenating Agent Used in Hot-in-Place Recycling on Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement Mechanical and Rheological Properties," analyzes the effects of rejuvenation on asphalt. During her Master's and PhD program, Sabahfar has worked alongside her advisor, Dr. Mustaque Hossain, as a graduate research assistant on multiple projects related to pavement properties. Her research will likely help reduce costs, increase the longevity of the nation's roadways, and improve safety both locally and nationwide.

As an attentive, sincere, and committed student, Sabahfar has excelled in leadership positions both as a lecturer and as a supervisor and tutor for the Superpave Training at the Kansas Department of Transportation and KSU, a program supported by MATC's Technology Transfer initiative. Her advisor and MATC Associate Director, Dr. Hossain, describes her as "a dedicated researcher and instructor," who has led an asphalt materials research group comprised of three Master's and three undergraduate students. Sabahfar's interest and experience in engineering education promises a bright future for incoming engineering students both at KSU and across the USDOT Region 7 consortium.


Nick Weiland - UNL MS

For his record of academic excellence, and in recognition of his outstanding contributions as an engineering researcher, the Mid-America Transportation Center is proud to elect Mr. Nicholas Weiland as the 2013 MATC Outstanding Student of the Year. Weiland is pursuing his Master's degree in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics with an emphasis in systems and design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, under his advisor, Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) Director Dr. Ronald Faller.

While completing his degree requirements, Weiland has served as a graduate research assistant for MwRSF, where his research on highway guardrail systems, conducted for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Midwest States Pooled Fund Program, has resulted in design alternatives that will allow state departments of transportation to realize cost savings while enhancing motorist safety. Mr. Weiland also serves as an engineering co-op for J.A. Wollam Co., Inc., of Lincoln. Weiland has been praised by his peers for his technical skill and professionalism in conducting several innovative studies that will enhance the quality of the transportation network. As stated by Dr. Faller, "The motoring public on our Nation's highways and roadways will benefit from Nick's continued education, training, and research in the field of transportation safety."


Li Wei "Chris" Tung - UNL PhD

The Mid-America Transportation Center would like to congratulate Li Wei "Chris" Tung as the 2012 MATC Doctoral Student of the Year. Tung will soon receive his Doctorate in civil engineering, emphasizing in transportation, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Described as having "significant potential to make contributions to the transportation profession" by his advisor, Dr. Aemal Khattak, Tung was named a USDOT University Transportation Centers' Outstanding Student of the Year in 2012. He remains an active member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Additionally, Tung has worked as a reviewer for the Transportation Research Board and the ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering as well as having multiple publications of his own, such as peer-reviewed journal articles and multiple conference proceedings. He has worked more than four years as a traffic engineer with a consulting company and has spent almost three years as a MATC Research Assistant. His current research focuses on finding common factors that lead to distracted driving and the frequency and characteristics of collisions around railway crossings. Tung would like his work to "provide the public with a safer and more efficient transportation system."

Carrie Mohlman - UNL MS

The Mid-America Transportation Center is pleased to announce Carrie Mohlman as MATC's 2012 Master's Student of the Year. She will graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Master's of Science in civil engineering with a focus on transportation systems.

A meticulous researcher and student, Mohlman has maintained over a 3.7 GPA and was awarded the prestigious Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Her fellowship research project works to develop testing methods to objectively identify and quantify driver fatigue to increase road safety. She has worked as a graduate research assistant for MATC, where she performs transportation related research, such as investigating commodity flow and analyzing highways-rail grade crossing safety. She has also been involved in MATC's "Roads, Rails and Race Cars" After-School program as a mentor for over two years, where she teaches middle-school children about transportation and helps them develop interest in STEM fields. Mohlman had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy in 2011 and was able to travel to Poland in 2012 as part of the National Science Foundation's International Research Experience for Students.


Kevin Schrum - UNL PhD

Mid-America Transportation Center congratulates Kevin Schrum on being honored as this year’s MATC Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year. Schrum is a civil engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently in the 3rd year of his program. He has also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNL, all while remaining at or above a 3.5 GPA. Schrum currently works as a research assistant for UNL Nebraska Transportation Center’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF), which is a position he has had since his time as an undergraduate.

While working at NTC’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, he has researched many projects including “Safety Performance Evaluation of the Non-Blocked Midwest Guardrail System (MGS)” and “Redesign of the Boston Tunnel Guardrail.” As a part of his master’s thesis, he investigated the balance point between “safe” and “inexpensive” as it pertains to roadside slope design using simulations. The information from his thesis has been incorporated into a design manual for engineers in Wisconsin, which is currently in phase two of research. He’s currently working on a cost-benefit analysis on types of crash cushions and low-volume roads. Schrum said he was humbled by the honor and thankful for all the opportunities offered to him by MATC.

To know more about Kevin click here

Scott Sorensen - UNL MS

The Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC) and Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) congratulate Scott Sorensen as the 2011 MATC Master’s Student of the Year. The Omaha native is currently studying intelligent transportation systems engineering and community and regional planning at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Sorensen also received his bachelor’s degree from UNL.

As a graduate student, his research has focused on modeling and optimization of freight networks. Sorensen has been working for MATC since he was an undergraduate. As an undergraduate researcher, he collected field data for a Nebraska Department of Roads project investigating the possible safety risks of broken-back curves and also modeled single and dual-lane roundabouts using infrastructure software. His roundabouts models were also included the current Nebraska Driver’s Manual . Sorensen has also studied abroad in three different countries, which include Poland, Italy and Egypt. Beginning in April 2012, he will serve on the Transportation Research Board Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy Committee. When Sorensen is not conducting research or hitting the books, he also serves as a mentor for NTC’s Nebraska transportation engineering after-school program.

To know more about Kevin click here


Cody Stolle - UNL PhD

MATC is pleased to announce that Cody Stolle has been named the PhD student of the year for 2010. A student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Cody Stolle is a graduate research assistant at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility. During his time at MwRSF, he has taken on major roles in research projects funded by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), state departments of transportation, and several private companies. Findings from these research studies are already being implemented by several state DOTs. Stolle has authored more than ten research reports, two refereed journal articles and four conference papers. He is also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Currently, he is conducting research for his dissertation on the modeling and optimization of cable attachment hardware for cable median barriers, as well as safety improvements for cable median barriers designed to reduce the number of critical injuries and fatalities resulting from cable median barrier impacts. Mr. Stolle will present his research at the University Research Technology Transfer Day at the U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters on April 6, 2011.

Benjamin Grone - UNL MS

MATC wishes to congratulate the Master’s Student of the Year, Ben Grone. Grone is a second year student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with an emphasis in transportation engineering. As an undergraduate, Grone received the prestigious NU Regents Scholarship and achieved a GPA of 3.96. During this time, he worked on a Nebraska Department of Roads’ stormwater quality study as an undergraduate research assistant. He recently completed work on a study sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Roads investigating nonintrusive detectors.

Grone is certified as a LEED Accredited Professional. He is a member of Chi Epsilon (the civil engineering honor society), the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association.


Nate Burnett - UNL PhD

Nathaniel Burnett is a master’s student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research focuses on traffic operations and safety, specifically on dilemma zone boundaries and its effects on multiple vehicle crashes. He received a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Fort Hays State University. After graduation Burnett plans to pursue a career in the public sector.

Among the several academic awards Burnett has received, he has also been awarded UNL’s Larson Fellowship. He co-authored a paper on the effects of inclement weather on dilemma zone boundaries that was accepted for presentation at the 89th Annual TRB Meeting. He is currently president of the UNL student chapter of the Institute of Transportation

Lisa Beck - KSU MS

Lisa Beck is a graduate student in Civil Engineering from Leavenworth, KS. Lisa plans to graduate in May 2011 with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in concrete materials. Lisa's research focuses on two main objectives: demonstrate the affects of incorporation of several different types of recycled materials into concrete mixtures on a concrete structure’s resistance to deterioration due to freezing and thawing; and create a model of the effects of these materials on the strength, durability and permeability of concrete mixture that will enable better concrete mixture optimization and promote the utilization of more recycled materials into concrete. Through her work with concrete materials, Lisa hopes to both improve the durability and lower the cost of building and maintaining concrete structures throughout Kansas. Lisa was selected for this award due to her excellent academic performance, hard-working nature, willingness to help other students learn the processes of batching and testing concrete that their research requires and the leadership she has demonstrated throughout her time at Kansas State University.


Robert Rescot - KU PhD

MATC is proud to announce Robert Rescot as the 2008 student of the year. Rescot is a second-year Ph.D. student in transportation engineering at the University of Kansas (KU). He is originally from the St. Louis, Missouri area, and has previously received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in transportation engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Rescot is an ambitious student, active in all phases of academic life including teaching, research and service, in addition to working on his Ph.D. course work. With a clear goal in mind of one day becoming a professor, he recognizes the vital importance of demonstrating during his graduate work the ability to successfully balance research, teaching, and professional service requirements. Rescot is currently instructing several lab sections of a land surveying course, and guest lectures periodically in several other transportation courses. He has also taught classes in the usage of the VISSIM microsimulation software as well as the theory and application of microsimulation.

Maurice Cavitt - UNL PhD

Maurice D. Cavitt is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Department of Industrial and Management System Engineering(IMSE). He holds a B.S.E.E. degree from Prairie View A&M University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located near Houston, Texas. Cavitt has been selected as the 2010 MATC Doctoral Student of the Year, an award which includes a scholarship and some travel funds to attend the 2010 Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington DC. "It is an honor and a great privilege to be recognized as the Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) Doctoral student of the year. It is an awesome feeling to be acknowledged for my research efforts and it was exciting to be able to attend the 89th Annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) Conference. Being invited to the same conference as other great researchers and intellectual minds allowed me to network and see great research," states Cavitt. He would like to thank his professors, including Dr. Erick Jones, and his family for inspiring him to achieve this award.


Craig Schiller - UNL PhD

Craig Schiller is a PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) whose research has focused on transportation data management, particularly as it applies to multimodal freight movements and the analysis of system performance. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. He plans to pursue an academic career after graduation.

His numerous academic awards include an Othmer Fellowship, UNL's most prestigious graduate student award. He is currently vice president of the UNL student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and has served in several student leadership positions in Chi Epsilon and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Craig was selected for this award based on his academic excellence and the leadership qualities that he has continually exhibited throughout his college career. The Mid-America Transportation Center is pleased to select Craig Schiller as its 2007 Outstanding Student of the Year.