Student Spotlight: Sergio Martinez
Name: Sergio Martinez
Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia
Current position: Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. C. Michael Walton, and Master’s Candidate in Transportation Engineering
Recent work: Urban Transport Consultant for the World Bank, specializing in the Latin America Region.
Hobbies: Big soccer fan (captain of a UT intramurals team which just made it to the tournament’s playoffs, undefeated) and loves playing tennis. Also, a history enthusiast, with particular interest in biographies and events related to the fight for Colombian independence from Spain, in the 19th century.
Favorite travel destinations: Cartagena (Colombia), London, Boston.
This summer, Sergio went to work at the World Bank in Washington, DC, in the urban transportation section. Some of his work involved researching bus scrapping programs across the world and developing a framework for Mexican cities to implement schemes to reduce their carbon growth path. He later presented his findings to the management of México’s National Bank for Works and Public Services (BANOBRAS) and of the Federal Support Program for Mass Transit (PROTRAM).
Sergio’s interest in helping people through engineering runs in the family. He grew up in Colombia listening to how his father, a civil engineer, helped communities improve their living conditions.
“Working on a highway project near the Panamanian border of Colombia, he suffered many adversities. Terrible weather, harsh conditions, bugs – he even unknowingly ate monkey – but he stayed because he believed transportation infrastructure was the key to Colombia’s progress,” explains Sergio.
After earning his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia, Sergio moved to San Antonio, Texas and began working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and environmental engineering projects.
He later worked for the US Air Force in the Civil Engineering Squadron of Lackland Air Force Base, managing the development of long-term planning studies. “Aging infrastructure, environmental and operational constraints made those projects at times daunting but always fascinating,” said Sergio.
While working for the Air Force, Sergio earned an M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at San Antonio, as well as a Graduate Certificate in GIS. “Going to graduate school while working full-time was very challenging, but I’m glad I did it,” he explains.
When asked why he decided to pursue transportation engineering, he explains that it came from his interest in urban planning.
“The economic and social health of our society depends largely on our transportation systems. It acts as a conduit for people and goods, and has a profound influence in communities’ functionality, sustainability, and appearance”, explains Sergio. “Because of that, transportation is key to our social, environmental and economic sustainability, and should be a central element of any discussion about the future of our urban centers.”
In terms of his research work at UT, he has been focusing on public-private-partnerships (PPPs) for the delivery of transportation infrastructure in the US. He examines evaluations of proposals, stakeholder perceptions of these agreements, performance, and is now starting to investigate issues related to managed lanes.
So why did he choose The University of Texas? What convinced Sergio that this was the place to help him accomplish his goals?
“I did a really comprehensive search for the best transportation programs in the US, Europe, and Australia. After getting it down to a few choices, UT made the most sense for me,” he explains. “I could learn from great professors, customize the program to my interests as there were no required classes, work on interesting research projects, and live in a cool city.”
But going to school is not just about research and homework for Sergio. He makes sure to dedicate some of his scarce time to volunteer work wherever he goes.
At UTSA he led the creation of the Urban Planning Student Association, of which he was the first Vice-President While at UT-Austin, he currently serves as the Treasurer for WTS, and as the Secretary for the Institute of Transportation Engineers student chapters. He is also serving a second term on the University’s Shuttle Bus Advisory Committee.
Sergio has been awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Graduate Transportation Fellowship from the USDOT Federal Highway Administration, as well as the Advanced Institute for Transportation Infrastructure and Management Fellowship from the USDOT Southwest Region University Transportation Center.
He lives with his wife, Chelo, in Austin. And they love it.