Student Spotlight: William Alexander

William Alexander at the US Capitol

William at the US Capitol during TRB 2019

Name:  William Alexander
Hometown:  Huntsville, Alabama
Current position:  Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Stephen Boyles
Hobbies: Photography, golf, scuba
Notable Honor: Named D-STOP’s 2018 Outstanding Student of the Year 

Where were you before you came to pursue your graduate degree at UT?
Prior to coming to UT, I earned BS degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Alabama. During my time at UA, I was able to complete a co-op work program working with distributed control systems, as well as minors in transportation engineering and business.

How did you become interested in transportation engineering?
While I’ve always had a curiosity about how traffic signals worked, I was able to complete a Transportation Engineering minor during my undergraduate studies, working with a great professor who showed me the exciting advances taking place in the field. With his help, I completed an undergraduate research project that gave me a view into the world of ITS, to which I felt that I could contribute with the knowledge of computing and control I gained during my career.

William Alexander at UT game

William and boyfriend James Cook cheer on the Longhorns before the West Virginia game

Why did you decide to pursue your graduate studies here at UT?
In addition to finding an advisor whose research interests I find intriguing and to whom I felt a solid connection, I also felt generally that the community at UT was one in which I could see myself becoming closely integrated and in which I would enjoy spending my time. I should say, my prediction continues to come true on a daily basis.

What kind of work are you doing here? What role are you are playing in the research, and what are your responsibilities?

I am currently studying machine learning techniques in traffic prediction and management, including work focusing on open-sourcing four-step model software, creating a parameter-tuning mechanism for these models, and developing software for a reinforcement learning platform that can determine the optimal controls to take given a relatively accurate prediction of traffic demand.

William Alexander leads a workshop

William leads a workshop for transportation students on programming best practices

In addition, I am currently giving back to the community that has given so much to me by serving as the current president for the Institute of Transportation Engineers and Intelligent Transportation Society of America student chapters here at UT. Our team has been working hard to foster a stronger sense of community in the transportation program by bringing in insightful guest speakers, arranging engaging technical events, and providing fun social activities for our students.

After you finish your studies here, what next?
Once I complete the MS degree, I intend to stay on for my PhD as well, continuing to focus on the machine learning opportunities in the field. Beyond the PhD, my plans are less clearly defined, with career paths in academia, industry, and the public sector all having allure.

Posted by Maureen Kelly  |  Category : D-STOP