Alumni Spotlight: Tom Fowler
Name: Tom Fowler
Currently Residing: Austin
Current job: Vice President with Kimley-Horn
Graduated from UT: 1994
Hobbies outside of work: Kid, kids, kids! Most of our time is spent traveling around Texas to tennis tournaments for my son and swim meets for my daughter. We also love mountain biking and spending as much time as possible at the beach.
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
I worked on evaluating the benefits of alternative fuel transit buses. A lot of my time was spent reaching out to transit providers across the U.S. to understand costs and benefits of moving away from a traditional diesel fueled fleet.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
My experience with CTR was a great way to bridge the gap between academia and real world applications. The research we were doing was going to help guide major transit fleet investments in Texas so it was important that we were thorough and accurate. The incredible depth of talent of CTR researchers was amazing, and I was able to collaborate with experts in planning, operations, and economics in preparing our final recommendations.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
I will forever be grateful for Dr. Walton’s mentorship as both my thesis advisor for my graduate work, as well as the supervisor of the work as I was doing at CTR. But I think the most significant relationships I developed through CTR were those with my fellow students. In my opinion CTR attracts the most talented people in the industry and I have been very fortunate to maintain close relationships with many of my fellow students and researchers. As a consultant, those relationships have proven invaluable as we often work for fellow students that are now leaders within the public sector, or team with fellow students that are now with other consulting firms. There is a great level of trust and support among those of us that worked at CTR that is hard to duplicate.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have really enjoyed the great diversity in projects that I am able to work on, both in terms of the type of work and the location. I focus much of my time on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and safety. I am currently managing projects that include the development of an incident management plan in a major urban area, development of a traffic management center in a rural state, and development of safety plans for forest roads throughout the west. I love being able to travel and collaborate with colleagues across the country. Since graduating I have lived in six different states and have worked in over twenty. I believe that each new client and location offers great opportunities for learning and growing as a professional.
What got you interested in transportation?
I did my undergraduate work at the University of Maryland and had not considered transportation until I saw a notice one day for a summer internship in transportation through the University of Texas. The program was run by Dr. Hani Mahmassani and provided a wonderful introduction to the UT graduate school as well as the research being done by CTR. Like many of my fellow interns, I was immediately sold on the program and was fortunate enough to be offered a spot in the UT graduate program.
What is one of the most interesting areas of discussion in your specific field of expertise today?
There has been a tremendous amount of research and discussion on automated and connected vehicles lately. I have been particularly interested in the safety aspect that these technologies offer. With 30,000 to 40,000 fatalities on the road each year in the U.S. alone, it is incredibly exciting to work on technologies that could help achieve the USDOT’s vision of zero fatalities one day.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
Be flexible both in terms of the work that you do and the location where you work. You will find tremendous opportunities in the transportation field if you willing to go where the work is and take on a wide variety of projects. I have worked in the public and private sector and lived everywhere from Southern California to upstate New York, and am incredibly grateful to have had so many diverse experiences throughout my career.
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
At Kimley-Horn we take great pride in serving our clients well. At the end of the day, if I can provide value to a client and help them achieve their goals than I feel really good about my work. I think my greatest achievement is that I believe I have been able to do that consistently throughout my career.