Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Copperman
Name: Rachel Copperman
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia
Currently Residing: Austin, Texas
Current job: Senior Associate at Cambridge Systematics
Year Graduated from UT: PhD in 2008
Hobbies outside of work: Playing tennis
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
Under Dr. Bhat, I worked on the development of the Comprehensive Econometric Microsimulator of Daily Activity Travel Patterns (CEMDAP), which produces detailed activity travel characteristics of individuals in a region. For my PhD dissertation, I created an analytic process for generating children’s daily activity travel patterns that can be implemented within an activity-based travel demand modeling microsimulation system. I also researched in the area of the effect of the built environment on children’s physical activity participation.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
The education you receive as a UT Austin graduate student prepares you well for succeeding at any type of job you seek after school. When you graduate with your B.S. degree you have a general knowledge of all different areas of transportation engineering. When you obtain your masters degree you have an even deeper understanding of those different areas. By the time you achieve your PhD you are well on your way, or have already become, an expert in a niche area within Transportation.
Through attendance at TRB, other conferences, and guest visitors to UT, I was given a number of occasions to meet and interact with the top leaders in our field. These networking opportunities were invaluable for jumpstarting my career as a transportation consultant.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
Dr. Chandra Bhat was my graduate advisor while at UT. He pushed me to make the most out of my time at UT by encouraging me to pursue high quality research, improve my technical writing skills by writing (and rewriting) many research papers, applying for scholarships, grants, and fellowships, and introducing me to many of his colleagues in the field of travel demand forecasting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My main project while at Cambridge Systematics is producing ridership and revenue forecasts for the California High Speed Rail system currently underdevelopment. It is satisfying to see how analysis produced using a model I helped develop is directly used in the development of a large scale transportation project.
What got you interested in transportation?
Before Google Maps, and even before I learned to drive, I used to be driven around my Dad. He used to take me different routes to get to the same location and comment on which route was the quickest. Since then, I have always paid attention to the transportation system around me. I was fortunate enough to grow up with three Metro stations equidistant to my house, each only a few minutes drive away, and have many memories of taking the Metro into DC. I grew up walking or biking from my house to my friend’s house on a regular basis or walking to 7-11 on cold, snowy days-off from school when driving wasn’t a safe option. Several times as a pre-teen and young teenager, I enjoyed the adventure of taking Amtrak from DC to NJ with a friend, and without my parents, to visit my sister. All of these experiences are why I have a passion for all forms of transportation.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
Go to graduate school at UT Austin!
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
I’m proud of the choicest I made that got me where I am today, from applying to conduct undergraduate research in transportation while at UVA, to attending UT Austin, to joining Cambridge Systematics.