For their innovative research on the transportation industry, four California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) students have been named to the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 2021 Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP).
The merit-based DDETFP awards 150 to 200 fellowships annually to students across the nation to help strengthen the national workforce in the field through education and research. CSUDH received $35,000 through DDETFP’s local grant competition for Hispanic-serving institutions to offer the fellowship to its students through a competitive application process.
The CSUDH DDETFP fellows are graduate students Matthew Taylor (sociology) and Ian Scott (finance), and undergraduates Alejandro Soberanes (business administration) and Khalil Awad (computer science). Each student will receive a monthly stipend during the fellowship to support them in their research efforts. The students also received a stipend to attend the 2021 Annual Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, the world’s largest gathering of transportation professionals, which was held virtually in January.
“The fellowship helps students enhance their research, establish professional connections, and pursue their careers in transportation,” said Mahmoud Salari, assistant professor of economics at CSUDH and principal investigator of the grant. “This is the first time that CSUDH students have won this award. Now that we have been recognized by the FHWA, we hope to continue our success in securing this grant in the coming years.”
CSU Transportation Consortium Grant
Two of the DDETFP student fellows are currently working with Jian-Yu (Fisher) Ke, associate professor of information systems and operations management, Jose Martinez, professor of economics, and Fynwinn Prager, associate professor of public administration, on the research project “Achieving Excellence for California’s Freight System.” The project was funded last year with a $69,489 grant from the CSU Transportation Consortium at the Mineta Transportation Institute.
The study seeks to determine performance metrics that contribute to a competitive freight system, which consists of ports, highways, rail service, distribution centers, and warehouses. Through evaluating the current position of California’s freight system in comparison with other states, policy recommendation can be offered to increase the competitiveness of California’s freight system.
“This fellowship is an incredible opportunity for our outstanding students to receive funding to continue their transportation-related research efforts and other related endeavors, including their work on critical projects around freight competitiveness and telework,” said Prager.
The CSUDH Student Fellows
Matthew Taylor, a second-year graduate student completing a master’s in sociology, serves as a student fellow for the “Achieving Excellence for California’s Freight System: Developing Competitiveness.” His faculty adviser is Prager.
Taylor is drawn to the human elements of the transportation industry. His work seeks to discover what workforce development and training programs can be created to support improved opportunities for local residents and marginalized groups in the freight workforce.
“The DDETFP is important because it provides significant monetary support, allowing me to place meaningful time into my research without the worry of considering other work to ensure financial security,” says Taylor. “It has also confirmed my ability to present research to large bodies of both academics and professionals through my participation in a poster session at the 2021 TRB Annual Meeting. It’s just another example of how CSUDH provides its students a thoroughly enriched educational experience.”
Alejandro Soberanes will complete his bachelor’s degree in business administration in spring 2021 with a specialization in global logistics and supply chain. Fisher is his faculty adviser.
Titled “Why the U.S. has an Aviation Pilots Shortage,” Soberanes refers to his research as an “investigation” with a focus on such topics as pilot labor conditions and pay rates. He has interviewed pilots and has conducted research on the FAA, ALPHA, and AEROMEXICO. His goal is to apply his evidence-based research to help the aviation industry become a more accommodating place for pilots to work.
“I am a student pilot. It is my dream and I’m doing whatever it takes to get there,” Soberanes shares. “I was an illegal immigrant living in the U.S. for many years, so the opportunity to fly – a 747, a A380, or any plane – is so satisfying to me. To be free to go everywhere and experience unlimited travel for me and my family would be invaluable.”
Khalil Awad is earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is also on the “Achieving Excellence for California’s Freight System: Developing Competitiveness” team with Prager as his faculty adviser.
Awad fled Syria’s decade-long war in 2014 and came to the U.S. He has always wanted to help improve transportation and the environment, with a particular interest in “smart cars.” Awad would also like to apply what he learns to help his home country, and the world, become a better place.
“This fellowship is encouraging me to work and learn more, and to understand how valuable is to work with such a great team,” says Awad. “I’m becoming a better person, and that makes education more interesting and valuable.”
Ian Scott is an undergraduate majoring in finance who studies macroeconomic trends. His faculty adviser is Meghna Singhvi, associate professor of accounting and finance.
Scott and Singhvi have worked on a number of research papers together, including such topics as corporate management effectiveness, Covid-19 and women in the workplace, hospitality, manufacturing, and the emergence of smart cities. Scott looks forward to researching new and emerging energy sources as they relate to transportation, as he believes the world is on the precipice of a secular change in energy.
“The fellowship gives me the chance to network with like-minded individuals and industry leaders, and it’s nice to work on something that I deem important, alongside my mentor. She’s awesome, and any chance I get to learn more from her is a blessing,” says Scott.