Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi Students Honored by Transportation Planners

LA Chapter of WTS and CTF reward talented Astani department students

January 09, 2012 —

Six students in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the School of Policy, Planning, and Development (PPD) distinguished themselves in recent regional transportation competitions.

Three were women who received scholarships at the Los Angeles Chapter of WTS (formerly the Women’s Transportation Seminar) 25th Annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner. The other three were undergraduates participating in the California Transportation Foundation’s (CTF) 17th Annual Transportation Symposium.

Christina Mercado, above, and Rosa Lau of the Viterbi School's Astani Department won WTS scholarships. Photo: John Livzey

Christine Mercado, a Masters student in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s transportation engineering program received the $5,500 Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarship at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on November 9th. Scholarship recipients are selected based on transportation career goals, academic strength, and commitment to the field.
Mercado holds an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from UC Irvine, and is a Transportation Planning Division Intern at the Port of Long Beach. She is founding president of USC’s student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. She plans to earn her engineering license and work as a public sector project manager. USC Viterbi School Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Jim Moore nominated her, calling her “one of the most charming, driven, relentless achievers he has ever known.”
Another Astani Department student, sophomore Rosa Lau, received with the $2,500 Marilyn J. Reese Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship, named after the designer of the I-10/I-405 interchange, the first woman in California to receive her license as a Professional Engineer. The Reese scholarship is open to women in their first or second year of undergraduate study in a transportation-related field.

Biltmore audience for WTS honors. Photo: John Livzey
Lau is a civil engineering major with a focus in environmental engineering, and is the Environmental Design Team Co-Captain for the USC student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She plans to continue in the Astani Department for her graduate studies. USC civil engineering runs in the Lau family: Rosa’s sister Roberta is also a Viterbi undergraduate majoring in civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering. Older sisters Rosanna and Rowena Lau are also graduates of the Astani Department. Both completed BS and MS degrees in civil engineering, both with a graduate emphasis in water resources engineering.

USC Price School of Public Policy doctoral candidate Jeongwoo Lee won the $3,500 Women’s Transportation Coalition (WTC) Scholarship. Lee is a research assistant on projects sponsored by the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS); which is jointly managed by USC and California State University, Long Beach, and has published numerous articles in the field. She holds a Master’s degree in engineering from Seoul National University, and a bachelor’s degree from Pusan National University in South Korea. Her dissertation will examine how the local environment influences transit use in Los Angeles. Price School Senior Associate Dean for Research Genevieve Giuliano nominated her.

USC undergraduates Samuel Levy (Astani Department junior), Richard Holzer (Price School junior), and Andrew Gorden (Price School senior) attended the CTF gathering at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, November 3rd – 4th — and Levy brought back a first place team prize, and the $5,000 CTF Education Symposium Scholarship. The symposium brings together 36 college juniors and seniors from across California identified by their institutions on the basis of special academic merit to participate in a unique two-day exercise. Vice Dean Moore, a CTF Board member, works with his METRANS colleagues in the Price School of Public Policy to identify USC’s student participants. Symposium participants automatically compete for the CTF scholarship. Levy will be presented with his scholarship check at a ceremony in Sacramento on May 23, 2012.

WTS Los Angeles Scholarship Winners: Christine Mercado (USC, MSCE candidate); Monica Villalobos (UC Berkeley, PhD candidate, Urban Planning); Josie Edles (CalPoly Pomona, BSCE student); Jeongwoo Lee (USC, PhD candidate, SPPD); Rosa Lau (USC, BSCE student); Sheri Soldatke (Senior Manager at Parsons, at podium); and Sokchanda Im (CSU Long Beach, BS Business Management, BS Operations Management, and BS International Business student). Photo: John Livzey

Participant students form teams to generate competing responses to a mock Request For Proposals (RFP) for a project in transportation engineering. A state-wide partnership of transportation agencies and firms sponsor the symposium. Student participants are not charged. Each student is assigned a senior executive in the field as mentor. The mentors assist the student teams in formulating and presenting their responses to the RFP to a panel of industry experts. The experience is intended to provide students with an intensive, structured dose of commercial engineering practice near the conclusion of their undergraduate programs, and to encourage their professional interests in transportation systems. Levy’s team (the Blue Team) won the mock RFP competition.

Many students who participate in the CTF Symposium go on to pursue careers in some aspect of transportation. Returning USC students consistently rave about the experience, and this year was no exception.

“The symposium was the best undergraduate exposure to the transportation industry that a student could ask for,” said Levy. “It was amazing to see the dedication and enthusiasm of the thirty-six transportation professionals who took two full days to share their wisdom and experience with the students.”

The Price School participants were equally impressed. “Not only did we get the opportunity to meet with the executives of the major transportation companies where we may work,” said Holzer, “we had the chance to work with them and demonstrate our skills.”

“The California Transportation Foundation's Transportation Education Symposium was an invaluable experience,” said Gorden. “I know that, with the education I gained at the symposium, I am better equipped to work in the field of transportation, and all the more passionate about the field knowing that we have all these incredibly talented, smart, and supportive mentors to look up to.”

Jim Blue Team Mentors
The Blue Team and Their Mentors: Ryan Chamberlain, Deputy District Director, Caltrans D12; Mark Beadleston, General Superintendent, C.C. Myers, Inc.; Jeff Shaw, Senior VP, Vali Cooper & Associates; Brandon Beals, Chico State; Paul Van Dyk, CSU Long Beach; Raymond Han, UC San Diego; Scholarship Winner Sam Levy (in red), USC; Yi Tyan Tsai, UCLA; and Matthew Mooney, CSU Northridge. Photo: John Livzey