Virginia Tech doctoral students Alexandria Rossi-Alvarez, Nick Britten, and Jacob Valente, who are working with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) on their research projects, have been accepted into the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program.

“We are extremely pleased to have multiple students who are working on projects alongside VTTI researchers to gain hands-on experiences earn fellowships in this highly presitigiuos program,” said Miguel Perez, VTTI lead for the data engineering group and associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics. Perez is also Britten and Valente’s graduate advisor.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program advances the transportation workforce by helping to attract the nation's brightest minds to the field of transportation, encouraging future transportation professionals to seek advanced degrees, and helping to retain top talent in the U.S. transportation industry.

Student recipients are awarded $5,000 grants to enhance their education and will attend the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., to present their research to peers and leaders in the transportation industry.

Rossi-Alvarez is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Grado Department of Industrial Systems and Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her research is focused on the safety of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians.

“It is an honor to be among students in this field that are striving to have an impact on transportation,” said Rossi-Alvarez. “It feels really special to be included and seen as a trailblazer in transportation. I am excited for the opportunity to share my research at the meeting.”

More specifically, Rossi-Alvarez’s research examines external communication technologies that could assist with vulnerable road users understand the vehicle’s intensions. By researching pedestrian decision making, she is working to understand how different forms of external communication on vehicles can affect pedestrian safety when sharing the roadway with level-four capable vehicles. While external communication technologies come in a variety of outlets, her research uses light bars that can signal messages through various lighting and oscillating patterns.

“Alexandria is very deserving of this award. She has been doing some cutting-edge and ground-breaking research that will improve safety for all road users interacting with automated vehicles,” said Charlie Klauer, VTTI lead for the training systems group, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering , and graduate advisor to Rossi-Alvarez.

In his research, Britten, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in industrial systems and engineering at Virginia Tech, seeks to understand driver’s willingness and ability to perform non-driving related tasks during automated driving. Using a vehicle that is capable of simulating two higher levels of automation, while monitoring the driver’s reactions in various driving modes, showed that drivers were willing to engage in and successfully perform non-driving related tasks during automated driving.

“It is a big honor to have the opportunity to attend the transportation meeting, network with fellow and industry professionals, and present my research,” said Britten.

Jacob Valente, a third-year Ph.D. candidate studying biomedical engineering, is focusing on improving emergency vehicle response to motor vehicle collisions.

Valente’s first project is aimed at the development of an interactive injury triage system that would leverage in vehicle and/or wearable sensors that can passively measure occupant vitals post-crash allowing for a seamless information exchange prior to on-scene arrival. His second project is aimed at the development of a taxonomy of harmful traffic interactions that are experienced by emergency responders during active transport by conducting a naturalistic driving study with several instrumented ambulances.

“It’s really exciting for me because my research is always tricky to put into a traditional category. This gives me a really great opportunity to share it with other transportation leaders,” said Valente.

The program is an application-based opportunity into which only 150-250 students nationwide are accepted annually.

Share this story