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Two ISE Students Win Rose Hills Research Fellowships

May 02, 2008 — Two industrial and systems engineering undergraduates — Catherine Ricafort and Robert “BJ” Takushi — have received 2008 Science and Engineering Fellowships from the Rose Hills Foundation to support engineering research in aviation and railway safety this summer.  

Ricafort is a junior majoring in information and operations management within the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.  A USC Presidential Scholar, she is pursuing a minor in musical theater and performs with USC’s premier A Capella group, SoCal VoCals.  Her research project — done with assistance from Prof. Najmedin Meshkati — will focus on the problem of airport runway incursion prevention, a topic she has been researching for more than a year and a half, and the creation of a safety initiative plan at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Catherine Ricafort

Takushi, a senior in industrial and systems engineering, will also be working under the guidance of Professor Meshkati to study human factors and safety design criteria for the Figueroa Street and Vermont Boulevard intersections along the Expo Line.

Takushi, who plays on the USC men’s volleyball team, said he chose those two specific intersections for his research because “they are points of heavy motor vehicle as well as pedestrian traffic.”  The ultimate goal of his research, he added, is to “minimize the risk of collisions on the Expo Line.”

"We are very proud of these students for taking on such timely and significant research projects, and obtaining competitive funding to do so," said James E. Moore, II, chair of the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.  "The topics they have selected are important and the agencies responsible for the systems they will study stand to reap the benefits of new insights into possible solutions to aviation and railway safety problems.  And having Profssor Meshkati to mentor their efforts all but guarantees that they'll make a lot of progress."

Both students were recommended for their awards and will be supervised by Meshkati, who is a joint faculty member in the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

Meshkati conducts field research on the safety, human factors and risk management of complex, large-scale technological systems.  He has inspected many petrochemical and nuclear power plants around the world, including the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine in 1997, and has been either the principal investigator or co-investigator for several funded research projects by the National Science Foundation and by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Robert "BJ" Takushi

"These two promising young scholars will be working on some of the most critical issues and problems facing our city and its many residents - aviation and railway safety - which are two of my primary research areas,"  Meshkati said.  "Catherine's work will add to the body of research in runway safety, especially at LAX, which has one of the highest rates of runway incursions in the country.  BJ's work will shed new light on some of the human factors issues that need to be addressed at what will become one of the busiest intersections along the new Exposition Light Rail under construction now.  I am looking forward to an exciting investigation with these students this summer."

The Rose Hills Foundation supports non-profit organizations that serve the citizens of Southern California, and has generously provided competitive funding for a limited number of USC undergraduate students to undertake full research in science or engineering during the summer of 2008. 

 Rose Hills Foundation Science and Engineering Fellowship recipients receive a stipend in the amount of $5,000 to support full-time research for a period of not less than eight weeks during the period May 20 through August 20, 2008.  Fellows are supervised by the faculty advisors who recommend these students for fellowship support.  All full-time USC faculty engaged in science or engineering research are eligible to serve as faculty supervisors.