Feature Stories

She Earned a Ph.D. in Transportation and Was Named Student of the Year

Patricia Di Joseph, who recently earned a Ph.D. in transportation from NJIT, was named Student of the Year.

Patricia Di Joseph, who recently earned a Ph.D. in transportation from NJIT, was named Student of the Year by the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, a research center supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering nominated Di Joseph for the award, given her high academic standing – she graduated this past summer with a 4.0 grade point average – and her research in designing intelligent transportation systems.

Di Joseph’s research focused on providing real-time travel data to freeway users. State transportation agencies embed vehicle-detection sensors on the shoulders of many freeways.  These sensors gather travel-time data and can also detect traffic congestion. The data are then disseminated to vehicles approaching the freeway so that their occupants can make informed travel decisions.  The accuracy of the information, however, is dependent on the traffic conditions as well as the number of sensors placed on the freeway. Di Joseph developed a mathematical model of the relationship between the accuracy of the data and the variables affecting it.

As a result of her research, departments of transportation and other policy makers can perform cost-benefit analyses on the optimal number of sensors to deploy.

Di Joseph first took an interest in transportation engineering when as a young girl she became transfixed by the myriad ramps and roadways that envelop the Newark Airport. Later, when she was an undergraduate mathematics major, she learned that she could apply quantitative skills to transportation.  She was hooked.

"I took an applied mathematics course in which we studied traffic flow,” said Di Joseph. “That’s when I realized I could apply my love of mathematics and traffic movement to improve the daily travel of people and goods."

She discovered that NJIT offered a doctoral degree in transportation, which was ideally suited to her. She graduated this past summer and now works as a post-doctoral researcher at NJIT.

This is not the first time that Di Joseph has won a major award.  Earlier this year, she received the 2013 Doctoral Excellence Award from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at NJIT. And in 2011, she won the Louis J. Pignataro Transportation Engineering Education Award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers Metropolitan Section of New York and New Jersey.

At the end of the month, she’ll being working as a research physical scientist for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. She’ll be based at the Corp’s Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She is excited about her new job.

“I intend to continue my research while working for the Army Corps, which I’m really excited about since they work on major infrastructure and transportation projects all over America,” said Di Joseph.  “And I never would have gotten this great job without NJIT and the Interdisciplinary Program in Transportation, whose great professors guided me in fulfilling my potential.”

By Robert Florida