Alumni Spotlight: Jeff LaMondia
Name: Jeffrey LaMondia
Hometown: Enfield, CT
Currently Residing: Auburn, AL
Current job: Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Auburn University
Graduated from UT: 2010
Hobbies outside of work: I love music—both playing in the local Wind Ensembles and attending concerts (I try to make it back to Austin City Limits Music Festival as frequently as I can!)
Recent News: Won the Auburn College of Engineering’s Excellence in Research Award for a Junior Faculty
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
I was fortunate to work on a number of projects with my advisor, Dr. Chandra Bhat, although my favorite was developing a demand response transit microsimulation software tool for the Texas Department of Transportation. As part of the project, we traveled to six transit agencies in the state, where I got to share our tool as well as learn from the practitioners about their operations and needs. It was a great opportunity to do innovative research work that was also very practical and useful.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
All the technical research and modeling, public speaking, and proposal/ paper writing skills that I learned at UT were extremely helpful in preparing me for a career in academia, but the mentoring I received from Dr. Bhat and the other transportation faculty was also influential. Working with and mentoring students is a big part of why I love my job, and I try to mimic the encouragement and support I received at UT with my students now.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
The relationships I made at UT and CTR continue to be some of my most important and fulfilling today. In fact, a handful of alumni friends continue to use a group email we created during graduate school to ask each other transportation-related work questions, share life events, and even post photos of fun transportation-related things. My friends and colleagues from UT have all gone on to do interesting things, and I am constantly amazed at their levels of knowledge and expertise! In fact, one of my first (and still one of my favorite) research projects was with fellow UT alumni. I look forward to the Transportation Research Board conference every year because I know I will be able to reconnect with my alumni friends in person.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
While I greatly enjoy exploring new research, my favorite part of my job is working with and teaching students. I always get excited when students demonstrate confidence or have pride completing their thesis, or when students have that “light bulb” moment in class where they gain a new understanding or perspective.
What got you interested in transportation?
I was convinced I not only needed to study transportation but also attend UT after completing the Undergraduate Summer Internship in Transportation at UT in 2009. That summer opened my eyes to the impacts that transportation has on quality of life and urban growth. I loved the idea that the work I could do would have such an effect on the world around me.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
One of my biggest challenges in grad school at UT (and one that I think is common to many students) was learning how to write well. However, this is probably one of the most important skills you can learn for a career in transportation engineering. Communicating with the public clearly, succinctly and without getting lost in the jargon can be the difference between having community support and sinking a project. It may not be as fun as learning data analysis or model estimation, but being able to communicate what that data or model means is just as (or even more) important.
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
There are two achievements with students of which I am very proud. The first is when a student from one of my first courses in bicycle and pedestrian planning emailed a few years later to enthusiastically share with me her success securing a job as a regional bicycle and pedestrian coordinator when she graduated. I was so proud when a few years later she was an invited to speak as a state expert at the annual Alabama Transportation Conference, and I continue to follow her blossoming career. The second is when research I completed with an undergraduate student was given the Transportation Research Board’s Fred Burggraf Best Paper Award. Not only was the recognition exciting, but it was even better sharing it with the student, who attended the TRB Conference and since joined our graduate program.