Alumni Spotlight: Siva Srinivasan
Name: Sivaramakrishnan (Siva) Srinivasan
Hometown: Chennai, India
Currently Residing: Gainesville, FL
Current job: Associate Professor at the University of Florida
Graduated from UT: December 2004
Hobbies outside of work: Traveling with family, playing with kids
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
While pursuing my Masters, I worked on a project aimed at evaluating the economic impacts of highway relief routes (aka bypass roads). For most of my PhD years, I worked on developing and implementing an activity-based demand-forecasting model called CEMDAP for the Dallas\Fort Worth region. I also worked on extracting trip-level information from GPS-based travel surveys leading to the GPS-TDG software and on developing econometric models for understanding the impacts of travelers’ security perceptions on their intercity travel mode choice.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
The breadth of coursework from UT gave me a strong academic foundation. Across the research projects that I worked on, there was significant variety, not only technically, but also in terms of team composition, time lines, client (TxDOT) engagement, and project management approaches. I got to (had to?) write (and re-write) a lot and also make several presentations, and this experience instilled in me the basic tenets of effective communication. In my last year as a PhD student and during my six months as a post-doctoral researcher, I also got to write research proposals and supervise other students. Above all, it was a privilege to have had Dr. Chandra Bhat as my doctoral advisor and mentor. It is hard to quantify his enormous impact on my professional life but I know that I draw upon my experiences working with him in my academic career.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
I had the opportunity to spend almost 6 years at UT in the company of a great group of students. When I started off graduate school in 1999, we were probably the first batch of transportation students to have offices in the basement of ECJ Hall. It is always nice to meet members of the “basement gang” and other alumni at TRB receptions and other places. Of course, both my masters and PhD advisors (Dr. Kara Kockelman and Dr. Chandra Bhat respectively) have been great supporters of my academic career and I am certainly most thankful for the roles they have played in training me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Student interactions are the best part of my academic career. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with students, discussing ideas, and, more importantly, getting them excited about transportation engineering. It is very fulfilling to follow students as they navigate concepts and tools in their own unique ways towards attaining a better/deeper understanding. Teaching is also a great way of continually improving my own understanding of the subject.
What got you interested in transportation?
When I applied for graduate school, my knowledge about the spectrum of transportation research was fairly limited. Beyond my belief that transportation engineering involved significant amounts of mathematical/analytical work which I seemed to enjoy, I did not have a profound insight into why transportation was right for me (and I am glad UT accepted me anyway). However, my course work and research projects at UT showed me that I really liked applying the analytical concepts to the transportation problems particularly because I could appreciate the context/meaning of the mathematical methods and the value of the generated results for efficient decision making. The taste acquired for a subject has since transformed into a career choice.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
Transportation is arguably one of the most dynamically evolving and fun professions today. Self-driving cars, connected vehicles, intelligent infrastructure, and shared mobility are all expected to make tremendous changes to how we will travel, and this in turn, will substantially affect how we plan/design/operate transportation systems. To be successful in such a setting, it is important to ensure that one’s training extends beyond the conventional transportation coursework. I would encourage students to pick up a serious second skill (analytics, human factors, programming, instrumentation, psychology, law, etc.) to make themselves more relevant and competitive. I would also strongly emphasize developing effective communication skills to be able to work productively in groups with diverse skill sets.
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
Seven doctoral students have completed their dissertations with my supervision and five are currently pursuing their PhDs. It gives me great satisfaction that I could play a key role in this important academic journey of several students.