November News & Updates

Recognizing 2022 Pacific Southwest Region UTC Students of the Year

The Pacific Southwest Region (PSR) University Transportation Center (UTC) is proud to honor exceptional students from member institutions for their promise in the transportation field. Students in doctoral, masters, undergraduate, community college, and professional development programs are recognized for their technical and research merit, academic, and leadership capabilities.


Julene Paul, doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is PSR’s 2022 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) University Transportation Center (UTC) Student of the Year. The U.S. DOT honors outstanding students from participating UTCs for their achievements and promise of future research and outreach contributions to the transportation field at the annual winter meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) will host the 32nd Annual UTC Program’s Students of the Year (SOY) Awards ceremony on January 7, 2023, to celebrate and recognize their accomplishments.


In 2019, the PSR UTC established a new series of awards intended to recognize exceptional students for strong research and academic performance in undergraduate, graduate, community college, and professional development programs. This suite of awards honors students from a broad range of educational levels who have demonstrated promising leadership and contributions to academia or industry practice.

The 2022 PSR UTC Students of the Year are:

Julene Paul, Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Julene Paul is this year’s PSR student of the year. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies from Harvard University and a Master of City and Regional Planning degree from Rutgers. 

Julene’s initial interest in transportation began while studying urban policy as an undergraduate. In her coursework, she found transportation to be a recurring and critical theme. While pursuing her master’s degree, Julene worked with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority), focusing on transit operations and planning. She shares that her work at the Port Authority was memorable and exciting, and furthered her interest in transportation planning. It preceded her work as a Program Manager at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) after graduating from Rutgers.

At UCLA, Julene is currently working on a research project studying the effects of COVID-19 on transportation behavior. She is also part of a team conducting research about BlueLA, an electric carshare program that provides services targeted to low-income areas of Los Angeles. She also has worked on several projects related to trends in automobile ownership. She has presented some of this research at national conferences and has also published some of this work with her coauthors (including her advisors, Brian Taylor and Evelyn Blumenberg). Julene has been interested in research since her undergraduate years at Harvard where she worked a research assistant with the Education Innovation Laboratory. She was also a Research Fellow with the Getty Foundation and a research assistant at Rutgers University. At UCLA, she has worked on research projects with both the Institute of Transportation Studies and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. 

Julene advises students to seek out (and speak with) professors who teach classes in the fields that interest them. For students interested in working in particular fields, she suggests reaching out to industry professionals who work in their “dream jobs.” She also advises students to take advantage of internship opportunities and to seek out mentors from these experiences. Julene cites her work with the Port Authority as an example in which her supervisor – Gregory Wong – made special efforts to mentor her. This included presenting her with challenging projects and opportunities to interact with senior leadership. Julene also encourages students to venture out beyond their required classes when possible. She recently took a course at the UCLA Law School in employment law, and this challenged her to think critically about transportation policies and their effects on workers.

Qinhua Jiang, Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science

Qinhua earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Civil Engineering at Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing. At UCLA, he works in the UCLA Mobility Lab under the supervision of Dr. Jiaqi Ma. Jiang works closely with both the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies and B. John Garrick Institute for the Risk Sciences. Jiang is the lead student researcher in several research projects covering areas of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV), transportation electrification, large-scale transportation system modeling, and weather-related traffic prediction. He was the lead author of several peer‐reviewed journal papers including Transportation Research Part D, Journal of Transportation Engineering Part A, and Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems. Jiang also presented some of his research at national and regional conferences such as the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR UTC).

Jame Reuter, Master's Degree in Philosophy at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)

The contributions that James has made to PSR research over the last year exemplify the impact of University Transportation Center programs on students who do not have traditional transportation backgrounds. In October 2021, James joined the PSR team as a Master's student from CSULB’s Philosophy department where he conducted rigorous scholarship (maintaining a 4.0 GPA) and served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant who led exam review sessions, prepared tests, provided grades, and proctored tests according to university standards. Upon joining the PSR team, James made immediate contributions to a range of transportation research projects that required a unique combination of critical thinking and scholarship.


He served as the lead research assistant and principal author of a literature review for a California Air Resources Board (CARB) study, entitled “Workforce and Economic Impact Evaluation of Future Zero-Emission Requirements.” James’s ability to review, analyze, and synthesize a broad range of legislative and regulatory documents, peer-reviewed articles, and commercial publications into a literature review format contributed significant insights to the project. His preparedness for this challenging project about a highly controversial and political topic—focusing on the relationship between emissions regulations, port automation, and labor—is a testament to his previous multidisciplinary training and the value of empowering transportation students from broadly interdisciplinary backgrounds.


James also made meaningful contributions to the preparation of a grant proposal for the administration of the Southwest Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) by drafting an overview narrative detailing CITT’s expertise and experience in transportation technical assistance and technology transfer. He also coauthored and edited articles for CITT’s Outreach Team and contributed to research on the state of U.S. Inland Waterways for CITT’s Waterborne Competitiveness: U.S. and Foreign Investments in Inland Waterways study on behalf of the ENO Center for Transportation.

Anthony Eschen, Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Northern Arizona University


Anthony Eschen has assisted Professor Edward Smaglik at Northern Arizona University (NAU) with a Pacific Southwest Region 9 funded research project entitled “Prioritizing Bicyclist Safety and Mobility: Which Guidance Do I Use?” Part of this project involves surveying state DOT bike/ped coordinators, and Anthony applied his skills to establish contacts with these individuals in all fifty states and a number of US cities.

Anthony has been working as an undergraduate researcher with AZTrans doing research in the field of transportation engineering. Recently he finished a research paper on the efficacy of a camera-actuated signal system that uses advanced AI technology for use at intersections. He is from Livermore, California. Anthony enjoys reading, building architecture Lego sets, and watching movies. He will graduate in Spring 2023 and is planning to pursue a Masters's degree at NAU.


Calvin Bragg, Global Logistics Specialist student from CSULB College of Professional and International Education (CPaCE)


Calvin Bragg is a student in the Global Logistics Program (GLP) program who receives practical instruction from industry experts on a wide range of logistics-related topics including how to cost the movement of goods nationally and internationally, the role of information technology, and how to address compliance issues. The culmination of the program is a team capstone project in which students are asked to prepare a logistics plan for a fictitious company. Graduates of the program serve in leadership positions in a variety of logistics-related companies across Southern California and beyond.

Like many who attend the program, Calvin was attracted to GLP because it serves as an opportunity to gain critical knowledge about the industry in which he works and to position himself for advancement. He was recently promoted to the position of general manager for a local trucking company that offers intra-harbor and interstate deliveries along with warehousing and cross-dock services. He has also worked as a terminal manager for the BNSF Railway at the Port of Oakland, working with local teamsters, longshoremen, truckers, port terminals, and some of the major shipping lines.


Calvin’s background is not uncommon for students in our program. He had to leave college back in 2008 due to the recession, and consequently the company he was working for went out of business. His advancement since that time is evidence of his contributions to the transportation industry and his personal initiative. His work clearly impressed his employer who offered to cover the costs of enrollment in the GLP. He has excelled in the program while balancing work, school, and home life as a single, full-time father of two children. Calvin’s capstone advisor confirmed his commitment, commenting in her review of his work that “he is always in 110%.”

Introducing Students to the Future of Transportation

Each year, USC Urban Studies and Planning undergraduate students take the introductory course “Urban Transportation Planning and Policy.” While the course name is mundane, the material is anything but. This fall, the course was co-taught by Selika Josiah Talbott, JD, and Justine Johnson, MPA. Talbott is the Founder and CEO of Autonomous Vehicle Consulting, LLC, and previously the Deputy Administrator of the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission. Johnson is the Director of Member Engagement at the California Mobility Center and Board Chair of the public-private innovation accelerator Urban Movement Labs. The students in the course are majoring in engineering, urban planning, and real estate development, bringing a broad interdisciplinary mix to the classroom.

The students heard from guest speakers that included the interim General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Connie Llanos, the Deputy Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, Hilary Nixon, Co-Founder of the robot delivery company Kiwibot, David Rodriguez and John LePore, Film and Automotive Tech Designer and Black Panther creative. Those guest lectures draw on METRANS’s network and the ties that our instructors have to the transportation community.

“The guest lectures enhance the classroom environment,” Talbott said, explaining that those lectures include input from students with weekly research summaries of current events in the transportation space as well as the study of practical and technical applications of transportation planning.

In addition, Talbott noted that the course features a field trip to the Peterson Automotive Museum. Los Angeles is a center of automotive design. Through the tour, students see and learn about five thematic vehicle categories - distinction, innovation, style, freedom, and utility – and the role of each in vehicle design now and into the future.

The class will conclude with presentations by the students analyzing recent Los Angeles urban planning projects including implications for the urban environment and an understanding of equity impacts of new transportation technologies. “The goal is to provide students with a real-world understanding of urban mobility and transportation planning,” Johnson added.

New PSR-Funded Podcast, "Mobility Matters," Addresses Mission-Critical Transportation Issues

"Mobility Matters," a new podcast funded by the Pacific Southwest Region (PSR) University Transportation Center, addresses mission-critical issues facing the professionals who design, develop, operate, and maintain the mobility systems that get people where they need to go and transport essential goods for communities and families throughout the country. The first three podcast episodes address tribal transportation, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and challenges related to reporting on global supply-chain issues before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In each episode, Mobility Matters host and PSR researcher Tyler Reeb interviews subject matter experts to discuss specific organizational management and workforce development challenges and consider solutions.


Episode 1: Equity & Mobility in Indian Country

In 1991, Congress authorized the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to implement the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP), which worked to build professional capacity within federally recognized Tribes to support the management of their transportation assets. In 2017, FHWA consolidated the seven regional TTAP Centers into just one, and two years later suspended the program entirely. Today, the TTAP remains suspended pending the release of new guidance and funding, however there is an ever-growing consensus that the program should be reconstituted to provide regionally specific technical assistance for tribal communities throughout the United States. In this premier episode, we explore why engaging and developing the Tribal workforce is critical to maintaining the nation’s rural transportation infrastructure and how the future of Tribal technical assistance is key to achieving that goal. Join Tyler and subject matter expert Ron Hall, TRB Standing Committee Native American Transportation Issues; Cameron Ishaq, FHWA Special Liaison, LTAP/TTAP Initiatives; and Raquelle Myers, Executive Director, National Indian Justice Center.


Episode 2: Choosing ITS: Smarter Communities and Careers!

 What if we could reduce pedestrian fatalities by a power of 20? What traffic was safer and less congested during your daily commutes? And what if communities across the country became more accessible—opening up a whole new world of meaningful career and quality of life improvements for previously underserved populations? If this all sounds good, then stay tuned for more information about the potential of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Join Mobility Matters Host Tyler Reeb and ITS experts Eric Rensel, Kevin Comstock, and Stephanie Ivey as they delve into why community leaders should choose to implement ITS technologies and why emerging and incumbent professionals should choose ITS careers.


Episode 3: From Invisible to Essential: Covering Freight in the Media

During the 2022 International Urban Freight Conference (I-NUF), Mobility Matters Host Tyler Reeb moderated a keynote panel to discuss changing public perceptions of the supply chain and how media professionals are changing (or not changing) their approach to covering the topic. Mobility Matters Host Tyler Reeb was joined by Sarah McGregor, Bloomberg Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, and Dan Ronan, Transport Topics Associate News Editor.


Mobility Matters is available on major podcast platforms and online at

The METRANS Transportation Consortium was established in 1998 as the first University Transportation Center in Southern California. METRANS is a joint partnership of the University of Southern California (USC) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).

METRANS' mission is to solve metropolitan transportation problems of large through interdisciplinary research, education and outreach. Its three primary objectives are: (1) fostering independent, high quality research to solve the nation's transportation problems; (2) training the next generation transportation workforce; and (3) disseminating information, best practices, and technology to the professional community.
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