Alumni Spotlight: Jianming Ma
Name: Jianming Ma
Hometown: Xinjiang, China
Currently residing: Austin, Texas
Current job: Transportation Engineer at the Texas Department of Transportation
Year graduated from UT: 2006
Hobbies outside of work: Chess and Basketball
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
I worked on an NCHRP research project investigating safety impacts and other implications of raised speed limits on high-speed roads. I developed surveys to learn about Austinites’ perception about toll roads. I developed crash prediction models to identify contributing factors to traffic crashes on Texas two-lane rural roads.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
My time at UT Austin had a great impact on my career. I learned teamwork skills through research projects as well as student activities. I learned the importance of networking by attending TRB annual meetings. Participating in research projects allowed me to make practical, real-world connections between my academic studies and the world of work. What I have learned at UT provided a good foundation for me to excel in my professional career.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
I am grateful to Dr. Kara Kockelman for providing me with an example of how to become a respectable educator and researcher. I am also indebted to Dr. Michael Walton for his continued guidance, help, and mentoring in my academic and professional career.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My job gives me unique opportunities working on planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of our transportation systems. I am also able to work on cutting edge technologies, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, which intend to address transportation challenges such as safety, mobility and air quality. For example, I am a Program Manager, working on an Interstate 35 connected work zone project. I am able to bring my expertise and experience that I have gained in the area of connected vehicles to improve people’s travel experience along the interstate 35 work zone in Central Texas.
What got you interested in transportation?
Where I am from, transportation infrastructure was not advanced. It took me seven days and nights to travel from my hometown to Wuhan, where I went to college. I was thinking why people had to spend so much time on transportation. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I decided to continue my graduate study to address people’s mobility needs. In my current job, I am available to use technologies to improve people’s travel experience by giving them opportunities to make informed decisions regarding their travel time, mode, as well as travel route.
What is one of the most interesting areas of discussion in your specific field of expertise today?
Connected and automated vehicle technologies offer the possibility of profoundly changing transportation. Level 1&2 automated vehicles are already on the market, with self-parking, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and collision warning systems in place. These technologies will likely help reduce crashes and energy consumption, and improve mobility and air quality. I am very fortunate to be part of this revolution in transportation.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
Most engineering students tend to focus on math and engineering curriculum. However, in the professional world, you might want to develop some soft skills such as finance, business writing, business communications, and public relations, as well as project management.
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
I would say that my educational background and experience has allowed me to use cutting edging technologies to make our transportation systems safer, smarter, and more sustainable.