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Mid-America Transportation Center



February 12, 2021

Dr. Laurence Rilett, Professor of Civil Engineering, Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology, and Director of the Nebraska Transportation Center and Mid-America Transportation Center has received the Frank M. Masters Transportation Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The award, established in November 1975, is given to a member of the Society who demonstrates innovative or noteworthy planning, design, or construction of transportation facilities. Dr. Rilett is also being recognized as developing a diverse workforce in transportation engineering through collaborative research. The award is presented during the ICT/Pavements virtual conference in June, 2021.

Dr. Rilett received his B.A.Sc. degree and his M.A.Sc. degree from the University of Waterloo and his Ph.D. degree from Queen’s University. He has been a principal investigator on over 50 research projects and has authored or co-authored over 60 refereed journal papers and over 90 conference papers. His areas of research include multimodal transportation systems analysis, transportation planning and operations, dynamic network modeling and optimization, and intelligent transportation systems..


August 25, 2020

Harry Nguyen had the best report of the MATC 2020 Summer Intern Program! Harry spent his summer working with Dr. Li Zhao at the Mid-America Transportation Center on her research project studying early and late merges on Interstate work zones. Due to limitations with COVID-19, Harry worked with Dr. Zhao remotely and describes the challenges communicating and learning new technology remotely. In his report, Harry details the type of work he did: gathering research literature, learning and implementing the simulation program VISSIM, and gathering data from different Interstate sections throughout Nebraska that employ lane closure in work zones. This opportunity has given Harry the chance to implement his classroom learning to a real work setting, saying the experience “brought me the first impression to what my career would look like.” You can read Harry’s and the other interns’ reports at


Januray 11, 2020

On behalf of the Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC), Director Dr. Laurence Rilett received the Workforce Development and Technology Transfer Leadership Award in Washington D.C. at the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Annual Awards Banquet. CUTC President Dr. Thomas O’Brian spoke at the banquet, describing MATC as “a shining beacon for promoting STEM outreach activities.” The award was given based on MATC’s leadership in a multitude of STEM outreach programs, i.e., Roads, Rails, and Racecars After School Program, MATC/NCIA Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy, Scholars Program, and the summer Intern Program. Through the continued support of public and private sector organizations, university partners, and research and outreach sponsors, MATC hopes to continue its role as “an institution that demonstrates outstanding leadership in designing and delivering workforce development and/or technology transfer programs.”


November 25, 2019

Over a dozen students spent the day at MATC November 25, 2019 to attend the Research Flood Workshop presented by University of Iowa professors Dr. Witold Krajewski, Dr. Ricardo Mantilla, and Dr. Ibrahim Demir. The format allowed for plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss the presentation. With the setting, attendees were able to get a good feel of what goes on at the Iowa Flood Center , where the men conduct their research, and what they are doing to spread IFC’s research findings to the community and other research institutions.


October 16-18, 2019

The 2019 Fall Webinar series began on August 30 with Fourteen undergraduates from Nebraska Indian Community College and Little Priest Tribal College participated in the 2019 MATC Scholars Program. The program, aimed at giving students the resources and support they need to transition from a two-year college to a four-year institution, consisted of presentations and panels from UNL professors, students, and graduates as well as Native American professionals from collaborating organizations including Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, the Kansas Office of the Governor, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Thursday’s theme, transitioning from a two-year to a four-year institution, brought presentations on choosing the right degree and institution, and panels on what the transition and experience are like. Friday’s sessions were geared towards strategies for succeeding in a 4-year institution. In addition to panels and presentations, the students attended a writing skills workshop and formal dinner Thursday evening with keynote speaker Ms. Tammy Eagle Bull, the president of Encompass Architects and first female architect in North American history. The event ended with a focus group and survey to continuously improve the program for future attendees.


August 30, 2019

The 2019 Fall Webinar series began on August 30 with Dr. Ricardo Mantilla, presenting on his work at the Iowa Flood Center he conducts with director Dr. Witold Krajewski. Ricardo is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa and research engineer at the Iowa Flood Center. In his presentation, he highlighted the progress the center has made since its formation in 2008 in monitoring, hydraulic modeling, hydrological modeling, and outreach. Mantilla and Krajewski’s MATC research project is progressing towards making tools, frameworks, and methodologies for technology transfer. They are working to develop methodologies for sharing their research with other flood organizations and states that could benefit from what has already been discovered at the Iowa Flood Center.


July 8 – 25, 2019

Girls Inc. Eureka! works with 8th – 12th grade girls to spark their interest in STEM subjects. The full program involves a 4-week summer learning camp, intern placements for the high school participants, monthly STEM Learning Events, and mentoring. During the summer portion the girls participate in a variety of STEM-related projects and activities, including those taught by MATC from the Roads, Rails, and Race Cars (RRRC) program. MATC joined Eureka! for an hour each day to build towers, bridges, solar powered cars, and more. MATC and Eureka! share the goal of providing underrepresented groups in the STEM fields with self-confidence and leadership skills. The five-year Eureka! program appeals to many girls who will become first generation college students, developing an early interest in higher education and innovative careers.

2019 Intern Orientation

June 14, 2019

Dr. Jamilla Teixeira, Professor of Civil Engineering at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil and previous Ph.D. graduate of UNL, led a presentation at the Prem S. Paul Research Center on June 14 about her group’s various projects involving innovative uses for local by-products in pavements. Dr. Teixeira has been collaborating with UNL Professor Dr. Yong-Rak Kim from April 2018 to June 2019 through the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) Post-doctoral Program. Their project includes working on advanced microscale characterization of different types of steel slags as well as performing numerical modeling of rate-dependent geomaterials based on a nonlinear viscoelastic cohesive zone model.


June 2-7, 2019

MATC, in conjunction with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA), hosted 33 Native high school students during the 2019 Sovereign Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy. This is the highest attendance yet in the program’s three-year history. Students came from cities and reservations across Nebraska including Niobrara, Santee, Lincoln, Omaha, Walthill, Macy, and Winnebago. The Lincoln Bike Kitchen donated bicycles for the students to ride around the UNL campus and learn about safety and maintenance. The academy also featured a boat building activity at Nebraska Innovation Studio and tours of the Nebraska State Capitol, Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska State Museum, and Biomedical Imaging & Biosignal Analysis lab on East campus. Panels presenting Native professionals and college students and a formal dinner with keynote speaker Mr. Reed Robinson, Tribal Relations Manager at the National Parks Service, enhanced students’ learning and network building. The program culminated with student presentations on an important issue in their lives or communities. Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason and Luis Sotelo, Chief Diversity Officer at Doane University, prepared the students for this moment through several advocacy and public speaking workshops earlier in the week.

2019 Intern Orientation

May 20 – August 9, 2019

Thirteen undergraduate students are participating in MATC’s 2019 Intern Program. With companies including JEO Consulting, City of Omaha, MAPA, City of Lincoln, NDOT, Iteris, FHU, and MwRSF, the interns are in for a summer of career growth and opportunities. The program officially began May 17, 2019 at orientation, where Emily Wilber, the Assistant Director of UNL Career Services, gave an opening presentation on “Office Etiquette, Networking, and Maximizing an Internship”. The participating organizations were present to network with the students before opening remarks and program overview were given by MATC Director Dr. Laurence Rilett and Research Coordinator Amber Hadenfeldt. Former MATC Intern and current City of Omaha Traffic Engineer Jeff Riesselman gave incoming interns advice on what to expect this summer and how to make the most of their internship. The program will last 12 weeks through the summer and include a technical tour day to various transportation engineering organizations in both the private and public sector of Lincoln and Omaha. At the end of the program each student will write a reflection and give a short presentation on what they learned before bringing their knowledge back to the classroom this fall.

KUMC webinar 2019

April 29, 2019

MATC researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center led by Dr. Shelley Bhattacharya, an associate professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care at KUMC, introduced the team and discussed their project during MATC’s Spring 2019 Webinar Series. Their research project, “Assessing and Improving the Cognitive and Visual Driving Fitness of CDL Drivers”, aims to improve the cognitive and visual driving fitness of commercial drivers. Accompanying Dr. Bhattacharya was Dr. Abiodun Akinwuntan, Dean of the School of Health Professions and professor of Neurology and of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at KUMC, and Ms. Iarina Devos, the project coordinator, who assist with recruitment and communications. The project evaluates drivers using a self-assessment questionnaire and reviewing driving log data for near misses, speed violations, and accidents. All participants receive feedback on personal findings and speak with researchers to identify concerns and how to keep the drivers safer, longer.

Annual TRB

January 13-17, 2019

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) conference was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. from January 13 – 17, 2019. MATC sent 12 students and a number of faculty members to the conference to learn and present their research. Students learned from presentations detailing 3D printing, innovative material testing, and modeling methods for sustainable infrastructure. The exhibit hall presented hands-on experiences for attendees including a driving simulator and autonomous bus demonstration. MATC took advantage of the well-attended conference by hosting a dinner for affiliates from partner research institutions. The vast conference topics allowed for new discoveries students could bring back to their own research, keeping them connected with transportation innovations.


December 2018

MATC’s 2018 Scholars Program is featured in Nebraska Indian Community College’s newsletter. View newsletter.


October 26, 2018

MATC was invited to the October Nebraska Commission on Indian Affair (NCIA)’s quarterly meeting to provide an update on the center’s recent educational outreach programs for Native American students. NCIA partners with the center to host the Sovereign Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy, and NCIA provides guidance on MATC’s Scholars Program for Native American undergraduates and Roads, Rails, and Race Cars after-school program for 4th-12th grade Native American students at UmoNhoN Nation Public School and Winnebago Public School. MATC director Dr. Laurence Rilett’s overview of the programs and recent enrollment numbers was positively received by the Commissioners. Dr. Rilett and Gabriel Bruguier, MATC Education & Outreach Coordinator and NCIA Commissioner, sought feedback from the group on how the center can continue being responsive to the current needs of Native American communities in Nebraska.


October 10-12, 2018

MATC hosted the 2018 Scholars Program for Native American undergraduates. This year’s program was developed to encourage and assist students to transition from attending two-year tribal and community colleges to four-year degree-granting universities. Native professionals and students from UNL, University of South Dakota, University of Montana,, Vision Maker Media, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, and University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange shared their success stories with the students and provided practical advice on how to succeed in a 4-year program and build connections on campus. The participants also visited the Nebraska State Capitol, Chief Standing Bear statue, and Memorial Stadium. MATC’s mission with this annual program is to provide targeted seminars to improve the performance, recruitment, and retention of underrepresented students in STEM and transportation-related fields. This program would not be possible without the generous support of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Union Pacific.


October 2018

MATC’s educational outreach programs for underrepresented groups are featured in USDOT’s UTC Spotlight newsletter. View newsletter.


July 16 - 26, 2018

This summer, MATC’s Roads, Rails, and Race Cars (RRRC) program teamed up with Eureka!, offered by Girls Inc., to spark middle school girls’ interest in STEM subjects. MATC and Girls Inc. share a common goal to help underrepresented students see that STEM is a part of their everyday lives and that a STEM career is attainable. Gabriel Bruguier, MATC Education and Outreach Coordinator, and Sydney James, UNL undergrad and RRRC mentor, led the group of eighth grade girls in activities such as creating electrical circuits in a lesson about train signals, assembling ovens that use solar energy to cook s’mores and nachos, and conducting strength tests on hand-made bridges and towers to learn about civil engineering. These lessons are part of the RRRC after-school program’s core curriculum, which will be kicking off this fall at several locations in Lincoln as well as Macy and Winnebago, NE.


May 11 - August 10, 2018

In its 23rd year, MATC’s Intern Program is among its largest and most diverse. More than double last year’s number, 16 individuals paired up with leading area transportation organizations, both private and public, such as Alfred Benesch and the Nebraska Department of Transportation. The program began on May 11 at an orientation meeting where Emily Wilber from UNL Career Services spoke about how to make the most of an internship. MATC Director Dr. Laurence Rilett welcomed the new interns, and MATC Research Coordinator Amber Hadenfeldt gave an overview of the program. Over the summer, the interns participated in a variety of important projects that help improve traffic flow or use computer software to re-envision and redesign the layout and components of Midwest transportation. Towards the end of the summer, the interns took a field trip to Omaha to visit Union Pacific, Schemmer Associates, the City of Omaha, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) to get a better taste of both the public and private sectors of engineering. To complete the program, the interns submitted written reports and gave presentations detailing their internship experiences during the closing luncheon on Friday, August 10.

MATC hosts 2018 Native Youth Summer Academy

June 24 - 29, 2018

Eighteen high school students participated in MATC and Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA)’s Native Youth Summer Academy this summer, lasting June 24-29. The program consisted of numerous activities and visits to locations exploring careers and studies in the STEM field. They were welcomed on Sunday afternoon at Union College and had a full schedule of activities until leaving Friday afternoon. Days consisted of traveling to various locations in Lincoln and Omaha including Nebraska Innovation Studio, Encompass Architects, Nebraska History Museum, Great Plains Art Museum, and Duncan Aviation. The students worked on remote control boats with Dr. Chris Cornelius, had lunch with the First Lady of Nebraska, and enjoyed helicopter rides with Senator Tom Brewer. On Thursday night they dressed up to attend a formal dinner with multiple guests and a presentation from the keynote speaker, Dr. Cornelius. Many students plan on returning next year for more opportunities and fun.

Students at AISES Dinner

February 19, 2018

Members of MATC, the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA), and the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange (UNITE) hosted a dinner to discuss the possibility of forming an American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) chapter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AISES is a national organization dedicated to increasing Native representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers. The evening began with a meet and greet as UNL Native students networked with leaders in the Native community. MATC Director Dr. Laurence Rilett welcomed attendees and introduced tribal elder Phyllis Stone, who provided the blessing for the meal. Dr. Christopher Cornelius, UNL Professor of Chemical Engineering and MATC Education and Diversity Coordinator, spoke about his experience as a Native student in higher education and the potential for creating change. Following his keynote address, Dr. Cornelius led a discussion with attendees about forming an AISES chapter. Mr. Gabriel Bruguier, MATC Education and Outreach Coordinator, shared opportunities with the students to get involved with MATC’s Native American STEM educational outreach programs, including the summer leadership academy and the after-school program in Winnebago and Macy, Nebraska. MATC is looking forward to seeing what these new partnerships will produce!

Tiffany Trevino

January 2018

Tiffany Treviño is the 2017 recipient of the MATC 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. 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 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.

RRRC After School

October 2017

The Roads, Rails, and Race Cars after-school program is featured on the front page of NSTA’s newspaper Reports. View full story.

2017 MATC Scholra's Program

September 27 - 30, 2017

Fifty students, faculty, and distinguished guest speakers participated in the fifth iteration of the Mid-America Transportation Center Scholars Program. The goal of the Scholars Program is to promote graduate study among underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. Faculty who lead the core sessions and students come from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions, including Prairie View A&M University, Southern University and A&M College, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Tennessee State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Lincoln University. The curriculum focuses on reasons for pursuing advanced degrees, identifying and selecting a graduate program, budgeting and financing, choosing mentors, and effective communication skills. Guest speakers outline expectations and provide encouragement by sharing their graduate school and professional experiences. The 2017 sessions were held on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, providing students with the opportunity to experience a Big 10 research institution.

RRRC Expansion Fall 2017

August 2017

The Mid-America Transportation Center’s after-school program was implemented at two new sites this fall. In support of MATC’s mission to promote STEM careers among underrepresented groups, the Roads, Rails, and Race Cars (RRRC) club was expanded to reach Native American students at UmoNhoN Nation Public Schools and Winnebago Public School. Plans to expand the program to Macy and Winnebago, Nebraska, were developed following the success of the MATC/NCIA Sovereign Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy last July. After participating in the academy, Michele Barcelona, a special education teacher at UmoNhoN, and Samantha Loutsch, a science teacher at Winnebago, were approached by MATC Education and Outreach Coordinator Gabriel Bruguier to pilot the after-school program in their classrooms. RRRC participants at Macy and Winnebago have since been busy building bridges, towers, gliders, boats, and race cars out of various materials while learning about the science behind these structures. In November, the students were visited by Dr. Christopher Cornelius, UNL Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and MATC Education and Diversity Coordinator. Dr. Cornelius spoke to the students about his experience as a Native American in higher education and lead a lesson on energy. MATC plans to continue growing the after-school program in the coming academic year to reach additional Native American students and schools.

Sovereign Native Youth Leadership Academy

July 16 - 21, 2017

MATC recently partnered with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs to build the 2017 MATC/NCIA Sovereign Native Youth STEM Leadership Academy. The academy lasted from July 16-21, and took place mostly at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where students were able to become familiar with the campus layout and opportunities. A central objective of the academy was to help Native American youth engage their potential in leadership in STEM and transportation fields. The group of 11 native students in attendance learned from professors and professionals in STEM fields, while also visiting institutions such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Union Pacific, and BNSF railway to learn about potential career opportunities. On Thursday, the students were challenged to utilize critical thinking and teamwork skills to build trailers that could float in water while carrying weight. Simultaneously, the academy emphasized Native American culture and history by including an excursion to the Standing Bear trail, as well as a native experiences panel. During the six day long academy, three teachers, three mentors, and six administrative leaders including Judi gaiashkibos, Larry Rilett, Gabriel Bruguier, Chris Cornelius, Rebekka Herrera-Schlichting, and Scott Shafer interacted with the students and shared their own experiences of getting into leadership in their native communities or the STEM field.