Student Spotlight: Alice Chu
Name: Alice Chu
Hometown: Cupertino, California
Current position: Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Chandra Bhat
Hobbies: Cycling, finding inspiration in modern architecture, traveling to new cities
Recent News: Named D-STOP’s 2015 Outstanding Student of the Year
Where were you before you came to pursue your graduate degree at UT?
I graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego. Afterwards, I moved back to the Bay Area and spent the next five years gaining work experience in the areas of web development, project management, product development and technical analysis for Software-as-a-Service solutions for financial institutions.
How did you become interested in transportation engineering?
I loved many aspects of my career, but I wanted to work on projects that would contribute to communities in a more meaningful way. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity builds across the U.S. and abroad in Thailand and Haiti have been some of my most fulfilling experiences because I got to work together with partner families to build something tangible and help them achieve their homeownership dreams. I strongly believe in public service and was drawn to the potential for transportation engineering to improve communities through economic, societal, and health-related benefits.
Why did you decide to pursue your graduate studies here at UT?
The combination of UT Austin’s reputation as a top ranked graduate school for Civil Engineering, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as a Graduate Research Assistant at a renowned research institute, and a chance to live in the vibrant city of Austin was an offer that could not be matched. While the university and the city certainly lived up to my expectations, my favorite part about pursuing my graduate studies here at UT has been my fellow classmates. My peers are incredibly intelligent and their dedication to mastering just about anything is genuinely inspiring. I have learned so much not only in the classroom, but also through collaborations with other students on research projects, professional development events with our Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) & Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) Student Chapters, and even intramural sports!
What kind of work are you doing here? What role are you are playing in the research, and what are your responsibilities?
In past last year and a half, I have conducted extensive research in the area of transportation safety. My M.S. thesis presented a comprehensive model of roadway safety considering the full range of crash types defined by the manner of collision and vehicle types involved. By examining how an explanatory factor influences multiple crash type outcomes simultaneously, it is possible to devise countermeasures while minimizing unintended consequences. As a Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Bhat, I have been working on the Communications and Radar-Supported Transportation Operations and Planning (CAR-STOP) research project for TxDOT. The objective of this project is to explore developments in DSRC communications and automotive radar technology for the potential to improve roadway safety. I recently presented a poster of the team’s research on vehicular ad-hoc network simulations of overtaking maneuvers on two-lane rural highways at the 9th UTC Spotlight Conference on Connected and Automated Vehicles.
What got you interested in this field?
As the former president of UT Austin’s ITS Student Chapter, I was very fortunate to work with a team of officers and supportive faculty members that had a wide range of interests in the transportation industry. Through professional development events such as guest speakers, conferences, and technical tours, I gained exposure to the many facets of transportation. I am particularly interested in the emerging technologies of connected and autonomous vehicles because of their potential for improving traffic congestion as well as safety. I find that my background in Computer Science perfectly complements this area of intelligent transportation systems. I hope to pursue a career which allows me to continue my work with connected vehicles.