WINTER 2011—Adib Kanafani, who served as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies for 15 years and as Chair of the Civil Engineering Department, has announced his retirement. He will continue to advise Ph.D. students and to be engaged in research.
Kanafani, Cahill Professor of Civil Engineering, was born in Lebanon in 1942 and received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the American University of Beirut. Inspired by the work of Gordon Newell and Robert Oliver at UC Berkeley, he left Imperial College in London, where he was pursuing studies in transportation, and enrolled at UC Berkeley where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering. During his student days his research interests and experience ranged widely; he developed a model for the location of parking facilities in cities, then went to work for ITS developing a system of transportation planning for national forests.
He also discovered he had a keen interest in aviation, nurtured by a project to develop a new airport in Denmark, a project in which Berkeley’s Professor Robert Horonjeff played a key role. The airport was never built, but the experience changed Kanafani’s perspective. “After that I always had one foot in the air and one foot on the ground,” he told the ITS Review in 1998.
In 1970, Kanafani joined the UC Berkeley Civil Engineering faculty where he taught both planning and aviation, and incorporated microeconomics, systems analysis and optimization into his transportation engineering classes.
Adib was instrumental in initiating research thrusts in new areas such as Intelligent Transportation Systems at UC Berkeley, and thus strengthened the Institute’s position as a leading research center in our field.
During his tenure as ITS director, which began in 1983, Kanafani helped to create the PATH research program, focusing on intelligent transportation systems. He also co-directed the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research, a university-industry consortium funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Adib’s tenure as ITS Director was marked by profound changes in the field of transportation research and education,” ITS Director Samer Madanat said. “He was instrumental in initiating research thrusts in new areas such as Intelligent Transportation Systems at UC Berkeley, and thus strengthened the Institute’s position as a leading research center in our field.”
He was also instrumental in creating the Systems Engineering Program within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “His vision and discussions with former deans Paul Gray and Richard Newton led to college-wide support for the idea of bringing information technology into the field of civil and environmental engineering,” said Associate Professor Alexandre Bayen.
He mentored both Bayen and Associate Professor Raja Sengupta who developed high visibility projects such as the Mobile Millennium and the Connected Traveler projects.
“Through his support to this program, Professor Kanafani started a process of modernization of the department, which also brought Civil and Environmental Engineering closer to other departments within the College of Engineering, particularly CITRIS (the Center for Information Technology and Research in the Interest of Society),” Bayen added.
In 2002 Kanafani was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional honors for an American engineer. In 2008 the National Research Council named him a lifetime National Associate of the national Research Council of the National Academies for his “extraordinary service to the Council in its role as adviser to the nation in matters of science, engineering, and health.”
In 2009 he was named Chair of the Transportation Research Board Executive Committee.