Jingqin Gao hoped she might rest for at least a couple of weeks after earning her doctoral degree in transportation planning and engineering. It had been a busy and eventful few years for her, including presiding over Tandon’s student chapters of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS), hosting the ITE Northeastern District’s annual Collegiate Traffic Bowl Competition and mentorship lunch, organizing panel discussions for women in transportation, helping oversee TransportationCamp (a popular event drawing hundreds of students and professionals each year), serving as a teaching assistant, and conducting research related to traffic simulation modeling, big data and machine learning approaches for transportation, connected and autonomous vehicles, congestion management, transportation economics, and parking management.
There were many rewards along the way: under Gao’s leadership, Tandon’s ITE chapter was named the best in the region, and she received the Dr. Louis J. Pignataro Memorial Transportation Education Award and the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) National Leadership Legacy Award. Still, it had been a demanding endeavor, and she looked forward to some well-deserved relaxation before diving back into work.
At C2SMART (Connected Cities with Smart Transportation), Tandon’s Tier 1 USDOT University Transportation Center, they had a different idea: immediately after defending her dissertation in late February, Gao was tapped to start work as a C2SMART Postdoctoral Associate, taking the lead on planning and developing data-driven transportation solutions and techniques within the framework of multiple research programs and projects.
Luckily, she’s adept at multitasking. Her current job involves studying the impacts of COVID-19 on transportation systems, quantifying the effects of double parking, helping New York City’s Department of Transportation pilot a program to assist visually impaired pedestrians, improving bus traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel, and much more.
Gao — who earned her master’s degree at Tandon in 2012 — worked as a traffic engineer and onsite NYCDOT consultant before deciding to return to her alma mater for a Ph.D. in 2015. She has co-authored several papers with C2SMART’s director, Kaan Ozbay, whom she considers an important mentor, and welcomes the chance to continue working alongside him. As a woman, she also welcomes the chance to mentor other women at Tandon and encourage them to enter a field that has been exceedingly fulfilling for her. “I’ve done internships where I’ve been the only woman in the room, so it’s great to be a part of C2SMART, which is working to change that paradigm, just as it’s working to create the transportation solutions the world needs,” she says.