Student Spotlight: Michael Levin
Name: Michael Levin
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Current position: Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Stephen D. Boyles
Hobbies: Cooking/baking, flight simulator, piano
Recent News: Named D-STOP’s 2014 Outstanding Student of the Year
Where were you before you came to pursue your graduate degree at UT? I completed a B.S. in Computer Science at UT Austin and immediately after joined the graduate program in Civil Engineering.
How did you become interested in transportation engineering? In my freshman year of college, I was recruited as a Computer Science research assistant for Dr. Waller. In the course of programming for one of the graduate research assistants, Nezamuddin, I became involved in his research as well. During the remainder of my undergrad I was involved with various research projects in network modeling.
Why did you decide to pursue your graduate studies here at UT? It was a difficult choice between UT, UC Berkeley, and UNSW. Ultimately my advisor is the most important part of PhD studies. During my last TRB as an undergrad, I realized that Dr. Boyles’ teaching style and research interests were the best match for me. Sydney was also very appealing, but from a Computer Science background I wanted a stronger course structure.
What kind of work are you doing here? What role are you are playing in the research, and what are your responsibilities?
Much of my current research focuses on building network models for autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs offer a number of new potential behaviors that could affect the behavior of travelers and their vehicles. Since I wrote two related papers for TRB, I’m coordinating Dr. Boyles’ work on the three TXDOT projects relating to AVs.
What got you interested in this field?
I first saw a demonstration of Dr. Stone’s AV intersection model as a freshman. A few years later, I was working on integrating it with outputs of a dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) model. I realized that incorporating AV behaviors into the more aggregate traffic models would be valuable for future traffic predictions.
After you finish your studies here, what next? Any post-graduate school goals? My plan is to continue in academia as research faculty. I’ve been interested in research and education since my undergraduate studies. I had a great experience as an undergrad RA to Dr. Waller and later Dr. Boyles for nearly all four years, and I also became a certified high school teacher through UTeach. Academia is the best way to do both.