I decided to major in Civil Engineering because of a transportation engineering presentation given during my freshman “Intro to Engineering” classes. The professor provided us with a preview of his research on the modeling of transportation systems, specifically those of large pedestrian crowds. He showed us how he was able to adjust the system controls and therefore change the users’ flow patterns. It was intriguing to see how even the smallest changes could affect the overall flow on such a large scale. Following the presentation, I began to think about other ways that this idea could be applied to the transportation systems I participated-in on a daily basis and I created a new flow model for my campus dining hall. I found the logistical challenge of improving an already existing system to be incredibly exciting. From that moment on, I was hooked.
Now, over ten years later and with a broader exposure to the industry, I have come to truly appreciate the multi-faceted challenges that permeate the field of transportation engineering. As I like to tell the kids in my K-12 STEM outreach activities: engineering problems are challenging sometimes, but that’s the whole point. As engineers, we get to be the ones who tackle these complex issues head-on. Honestly, how much cooler of a profession is there than that? We stare challenge and complexity in the face and say: ‘Bring it on’.
I think that this is especially relevant for transportation engineering, as the solutions require an incredibly broad perspective. There are so many stakeholders and competing interests in every transportation project. We have to be able to tackle that complexity and open-mindedly engage with all of those various perspectives to develop the most effective, elegant, and seemingly effortless solutions. I find it simply fascinating to see how it all comes together.
One of the other most exciting parts about this field, for me, is that it is inherently focused on people-centered design. Nearly every aspect of transportation engineering directly impacts people’s everyday lives. For me, that fact brings equal amounts of immense joy and weighty responsibility to my work. I care deeply about promoting thoughtful, context-sensitive, and technically innovative multimodal transportation infrastructure and traffic systems. What is most important to me is knowing that I will be making a positive impact in how people interact with transportation and I endeavor to thoughtfully bring that intention into my work.
Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have found this profession and I am proud to be a transportation engineer.
I hope you will join ITE in celebrating National Engineers Week by sharing some of the things that make you proud to be an engineer in the comments below.
Happy National Engineers Week!