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The Newest Ph.D.s

SPRING 2011 -- Come June, 15 transportation engineering students (10 of whom are pictured) will have received doctorates over the past year. The newly-minted graduates, beginning with five last December and 10 more expected to complete their degrees this spring, represent an unusually large number, according to ITS Director Samer Madanat.

“This is perhaps the largest number of students to complete their Ph.D.s we’ve had during any one-year period,” said Madanat. “As a group they’re representative of the diversity we see here at UC Berkeley and in the transportation engineering program. They come from a number of different countries and backgrounds, and the areas of research they explore and develop during their time here are varied and rich.”

The graduates are Ipsita Banerjee, Gurkaran Buxi, Eric Gonzales, Offer Grembek, Weihua Gu, Amy Kim, Kwangho Kim, Tasos Nikoleris, Anthony Patire, Dylan Saloner, Megan Smirti Ryerson, Jing Xiong, Yiguang Xuan, Yoonjin Yoon, and Bo Zou. They came to Berkeley from Canada, China, Greece, India, Israel, Korea, and from states across the country. The subjects of their dissertations also range widely, encompassing aviation, personal transportation, and motorization in developing countries.

As they look back on what they liked best about their years at UC Berkeley, many remarked on the supportive faculty, the research capabilities they were offered, Berkeley’s diverse social environment, and the remarkable fellow students they encountered.

“Obviously, the faculty at Berkeley is world class and it is humbling how much time and energy they have for their students,” wrote Dylan Saloner in an email. “But perhaps the most important factor in my education and research here has been the quality of interactions with fellow students.”

Or, as Gurkaran Buxi put it, “The opportunity to interact with some of the smartest people on the planet.”

A quick email survey found many also had advice for incoming students. For those starting out, here is what they said:

 - Take as many classes as you can because you then have access to the best minds. The program gives you an opportunity to be creative and make breakthroughs. Just make sure to avail yourself of all the options when admitted to the ITS program. – Gurkaran Buxi

  - Get to know all the professors in your first year. Present your work at conferences to meet others in the field. -- Megan Smirti Ryerson

  - Have a plan for finishing quickly and don’t lose focus.– Ipsita Banerjee

  - Take advantage of everything else that Berkeley and the Bay Area have to offer. – Dylan Saloner

  - Don’t worry so much about deciding exactly what your research interests are. Think about it--but be flexible. They can change over time. I came into this program years ago thinking about one thing and went in entirely different directions. And I may have come full circle. There are so many interesting problems in transportation.— Amy Kim

 - Remember that failures in research are sometimes unavoidable and you can learn from them. – Weihua Gu

 - Treasure the opportunity and be as active as possible. – Yiguang Xuan

  - Try to find an opportunity to interact with each faculty member in the program, whether this is by taking a class or working on a research project. This will give you a broad foundation to start building your own expertise in the transportation field. – Eric Gonzales

 - Study mathematics! – Tasos Nikoleris


--photo/Jay Sullivan