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Assistant Professor Ketan Savla wins NSF CAREER Award and plans to develop research on transportation networks
By: Natalia Velez
March 04, 2015 —


 Professor Ketan Savla's work focuses on transportation network reliability

Ketan Savla, an assistant professor in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and transportation network expert, has received the renowned NSF CAREER award, along with $500,000 in research funding.

The NSF funds research that not only contributes to “keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in a wide rage of scientific areas” but also integrates with education in order to assure training for future scientists and engineers.

“The most exciting part," Savla said, "is that I view this award as positive feedback from the research community on my vision of using tools from controls, dynamical systems and optimization to tackle real-time management and planning problems in intelligent infrastructure networks.”

“The NSF CAREER award is very empowering, and Ketan has earned a chance to think big and envision new ways of changing the world,” added Lucio Soibelman, chair of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Savla’s work focuses on transportation network reliability. This means that if there’s a terrible earthquake in L.A. and two or three bridges collapse, Savla could potentially figure out a way of re-creating the transportation flows and bringing the network back to operation as fast as possible.

“As our society is becoming more dependent on critical infrastructure networks such as transportation, their efficient and resilient operation is becoming ever more important,” Savla said.

Assistant Professor Ketan Savla

Savla’s NSF grant will allow him to develop courses on analysis, control and estimation of infrastructure networks and expand research opportunities for both graduates and undergraduates to implement control algorithms on professional transportation software.

But the relevance of Savla’s research goes way beyond his recognition by the NSF. The National Academy of Engineering has identified the restoration and improvement of urban infrastructure systems as one of engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges.

“It is increasingly being realized that leveraging sensing, actuation, and information technologies can achieve substantial improvements in the performance of these systems,” Savla said.

Savla has conducted research on dynamical systems for a while. After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2007, he spent five years working in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at MIT. During that time, he focused on a variety of application domains including robotics, humans-in-loop systems, neuroscience and transportation.

“The common theme across all my work has been to investigate basic problems at the interface of controls, dynamical systems and operations research,” he said.

Savla joined USC as an assistant professor in 2012. He said his experience here has been very positive.

“I like the fact that there are faculties in multiple departments across the school with whom I can collaborate.”