2021 30th Annual UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Awards

Headshot of Ali Rahim-Talegani

Congratulations to Ali Rahim-Taleqani of North Dakota State University (NDSU). Ali has been recognized as a 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year by the University Transportation Centers for his contributions to the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.  Ali has over 10 years of experience in international freight forwarding, logistics, and domestic transport.  He received his PhD in Transportation and Logistics from NDSU in May 2020.

During his doctoral studies, he worked on several projects relating to micro-mobility using simulation, optimization, and machine learning.  Now a master’s degree student in Computer Science, Ali is conducting research with the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) at NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.  He is currently developing a web application that will help rural and small urban transit agencies identify and project their state of good repair.

In addition to receiving his PhD in 2020, Ali published his third journal article, “Maximum Closeness Centrality K-Clubs: A Study of Dock-Less Bike Sharing in the Journal of Advanced Transportation.

STUDENT NEWS: Gaining Research and Testing Experience in the Cold Climates Lab

Staff photo, Lura Johnson

The Cold Climate Operations and Systems program has new student support in the Lab!

WTI is pleased to welcome Lura Johnson as an undergraduate lab technician, who will assist with various road deicing tests and materials.  Working closely with Program Manager Laura Fay and Mat Bell, she is currently supporting the Ice Melting Capacity Test and the Roadway Friction Modeling project.

Lura is currently pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Engineering here at MSU and also participates in the Honors College. Originally from Keene Valley in upstate New York, she has a strong interest in the protection of public and private lands, like the Adirondack Park near her hometown.  Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in resource preservation with an emphasis on pollution control.  When she’s not studying or working in our labs, she enjoys making art, backcountry and nordic skiing, trail running, backpacking, and swimming.

Student Research Opportunities: Five Positions Available with Bozeman Commute Rebrand Project

Summary: The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) is seeking five MSU students for part-time, paid positions to support the development and implementation of a project to rebrand a local, online commuter platform.  Seeking students in marketing, graphic design, engineering, public health and sustainability.  Apply by November 13th, 2020.

Background

Logo for Bozeman Commuter project including tagline Rethink Transportation

Many people who work in Bozeman live far away due to high housing costs, resulting in long and expensive commutes. BozemanCommute.org is an online platform hosted by RideAmigos launched in 2018 in part to help people find more affordable commute options. However, the Bozeman Commute platform receives relatively limited use.  The Bozeman Commute Rebrand, social marketing and programs/outreach project will engage MSU students and partners from different sectors in the community including transit, economic development, sustainability, business, and transportation.  The project objectives include:

  1. Rebrand the Bozeman Commute program to appeal to a broader audience
  2. Development of a comprehensive social marketing campaign
  3. Develop programs and outreach events to engage more people in understanding their transportation options.

Position Description

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) is seeking five MSU students who will be responsible for supporting WTI in the development and implementation of the rebrand project. The plan is to create a multi-disciplinary student team consisting of one student from each of the following disciplines:  marketing, graphic design, engineering, public health and sustainability.  It is anticipated that this team approach will foster a culture of collaboration among people who likely have differing backgrounds and viewpoints. Roles may include the creation of marketing and outreach materials, website development, event coordination and implementation, data collection and analysis, survey design and analysis, literature reviews, preparing project reports, and making presentations to various community groups. 

The work is anticipated to start in mid-November and be complete by early June or when the project is complete.  Students will report to the Bozeman Commuter Project Manager- Matt Madsen.  Students will be paid $14 per hour up to 80 hours total per student over the next 6 months.  It is anticipated students will work approximately 10-15 hours per month on average, though that time may vary depending on class and other commitments.   Work will be remote, virtual, and possibly in-person.

Required Skills/Qualifications

  1. Junior or Senior Level Undergrad or master’s Level Student in Engineering, Marketing, Graphic Design, Art, Community Health, or Sustainability.
  2. Ability to work independently as well as in a collaborative environment
  3. Experience with Webex and other internet-based meeting software
  4. Ability and willingness to work during the Snowmester
  5. Demonstrated oral and written communication skills
  6. Demonstrated experience with programs like MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, and others

For More Information/To Apply

Contact Matthew Madsen, MPH, Research Associate at the Western Transportation Institute.  Matthew.madsen@montana.edu  Please submit a resume and cover letter to the email address listed above.  Please indicate your area of specialty in your cover letter.

STUDENT NEWS: Students in CATS Program Spearhead Local Stormwater Survey

Logo for CATS student engagement program including icons of different project types

The City of Bozeman and Montana State University (MSU) students are partnering up to strengthen stormwater outreach efforts. Dr. Sarah Church, a professor in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences, is leading a group of undergraduate students in a Geography course in the development of an online survey. This project is in collaboration with City staff who implement the City’s Stormwater Management Program. Bozeman residents received an insert in utility bills last month to encourage participation in the survey. Survey responses will help the City understand how to best create effective messaging and tailor programs specifically for Bozeman residents.

Dr. Church said that the students have worked hard over the past two months to learn about survey design and have developed excellent survey questions. “We are all excited to see the survey responses and the students are eager to begin analyzing the data to report back to the City – the more responses we get the more robust our findings will be,” Church said.

Frank Greenhill, a Water Quality Specialist with the City’s Stormwater Division, said that he is excited for the opportunity to work with such a talented group of students at MSU. “This is a great example of how a strong relationship between the City and MSU can work to solve complex local challenges.”

Mr. Greenhill also said that he is looking forward to analyzing the results of the survey as they will help the City key in on certain program areas and introduce new opportunities. “Surveys provide a valuable opportunity to hear from the customers we serve, and to reflect on what works, what does not, and, most importantly, what we can do better.”

Are you a Bozeman resident?

Support this project by completing the 10-15 minute survey available at the following link: www.tinyurl.com/bozemanstormwater

New Facility Ready for Fish Passage Studies

Two students test waterway used for fish research
Two Montana State University students test waterway used for fish passage research (photo courtesy of MSU News Service)

Researchers in Montana have a new tool for designing fish passage structures that meet the needs of both fish and agricultural producers.   A feature article by the MSU News Service highlights a recently completed artificial waterway at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Technology Center on the outskirts of Bozeman, which researchers can use to test the designs of small fish passage structures that allow grayling and other species to overcome irrigation structures that might otherwise hinder their seasonal movements.

The state-of-the-art upgrade will facilitate ongoing research by Montana State University’s Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group, who have collaborated for more than a decade.  The group includes researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MSU’s Departments of Ecology and Civil Engineering, and WTI.  WTI Road Ecologist Matt Blank has been on the team since its inception, and he is currently one of the team members on a new project to redesign fishways to use less water.  As he stated in the news article, “”If we can get the fish to swim through less water, that’s a win. We want to find solutions that benefit not only the fish but the irrigators who use the river, and this study is exploring how to do that.” More information about current and past research is available on the MSU Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group webpage, and on WTI’s project webpages (Fish Passage Research and Fish Passage Research Phase 2).

MSU News Highlights Upcoming Webinar on Workforce Development

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), which is based at WTI, will host a webinar on October 7 (11 am Mountain Time), which will focus on “Engaging Multidisciplinary Student Talent to Meet Agency Needs.” Four speakers from MSU and the City of Bozeman will highlight the Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship Initiative (CATS), a successful 3-year partnership between MSU and the City of Bozeman that offers students the opportunity to work on community-based projects through their university courses.

Thanks to MSU News Service for highlighting the webinar with a feature article on its website!  Read more about the CATS program, the upcoming series of webinars on workforce development topics, and insights from WTI’s Education Program Manager Susan Gallagher, who will be one of the featured speakers.

Time for Kids Introduces Wildlife Crossings to Young Students

WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is featured in a recent issue of Time Magazine for Kids. A feature article called “Safe Travels” describes the large number of animals that are killed in roadway collisions each year, and how wildlife crossing structures work to protect animals as they move across their habitats. Rob discusses successful designs – like the crossing structures in Banff National Park – and how they are models for new efforts around the world, including a project he is working on in Kaziranga National Park in India.

Time for Kids is a weekly magazine for elementary school children. It offers age appropriate learning material for students and is designed to complement curriculum.

STUDENT NEWS: MSU ITE Student Chapter Honored at Annual Meeting

Group photo of members of MSU ITE Student Chapter
MSU ITE Student Chapter (Photo credit: Prof. Eric Shen, USC)

The Montana State University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid off!  At the annual meeting of the Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved over the last year.  The MSU attendees also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and engineering topics.

ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development.  To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy serves as the chapter’s faculty advisor.  They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.

Chapter President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District Meeting held in early July.  Although virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding.  “With some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter, receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl Competition.”

WTI is pleased to work with the MSU ITE student chapter each year, collaborating on research project activities, providing speakers, and sponsoring activities.  For more information about the chapter, contact ITE.montanastateuniversity@gmail.com or visit https://montanastateite.weebly.com/

Student News: Meet our summer intern

Portrait of Jonathan Fisher in outdoor setting

2020 will always be remembered as the year we all worked remotely – even our summer interns! WTI is pleased to welcome Jonathan Fisher, who is working from his home in Vermont.  While far from Montana, he is well situated to help Andrea Hamre with a Travel Behavior Analysis project, for which he is analyzing and modeling data from traveler surveys in Chittenden County, Vermont.

Jonathan is a recent graduate of Middlebury College, where he majored in Geography and minored in French.  With his skills in GIS and data analysis, combined with an interest in the environment, he sees the internship as an opportunity to learn more about transportation topics like mode choice, transportation behavior, and commuter benefits: “I have always loved working with numbers and I was eager to put my new statistical skillset to use on a professional research project.” Andrea added, “It’s been a true pleasure working with Jonathan this summer. We’ve worked through an ambitious research plan together, and I hope this introduction to transportation research with WTI supports his career development.”

A lifetime Vermont resident, Jonathan is considering a move to Boston in the near future to start his professional career.  When he’s not crunching numbers, learning how to write a journal article, or checking out the job market, he also manages to find time for running, basketball, baking and reading.

Catching Up with the Fellows

The placement year for the Class of 2019-2020 Public Land Transportation Fellows (PLTF) is drawing to a close.  Over the last three weeks, Naomi Fireman, Nate Begay, and Vince Ziols have been featured in “Takeover Tuesday” posts on LinkedIn, reflecting on their experiences working and learning in US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wildlife refuges.

Naomi Fireman at Potomac River Wildlife Refuge 2020
Naomi Fireman

Naomi Fireman has been stationed at Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Northern Virginia, where she has assisted with a variety of projects to enhance transportation facilities within and between the individual refuges that make up the large complex. Highlights included re-designing a refuge entrance, planning and installing new bike racks, and applying for a federal grant to complete a trail project.  Naomi noted, “Especially nowadays we can see how important it is for people to connect to and get out into nature. I am proud to be helping improve my refuge’s accessibility and connectivity to the local area and beyond.”

Nate Begay outside with flag that reads Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
Nate Begay

On the other side of the country, Nate Begay has been working with staff and partners at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (VdO) in Albuquerque, NM to improve transportation access, as well as expand educational programs.  Some of his favorite projects have included bringing a bike share station to the visitor center, helping staff design the refuge trail network, and designing an outdoor classroom for field trips. Nate appreciated the chance to collaborate with the many local stakeholders who support the Refuge: “Working with Valle de Oro has allowed me to not only give back to my community, but also follow my passion of working in public lands.”

Nature trail near shoreline in Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Vince Ziols has had the unique opportunity to spend nearly two years at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) in Michigan. In his first year, he completed a number of transportation planning projects to facilitate access to the Refuge by residents of Detroit and other surrounding communities.  DRIWR then extended his fellowship for a second year, which has allowed him to put many of the projects into action, including extending a regional bus route to the Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center, helping a nonprofit organization secure a $1.9 million grant for trail development, and implementing a trail signage and safety plan. According to Vince, the fellowship has had several valuable benefits: “I have found another home here in Detroit and know that my experience as a PLTF has prepared me for the next step of my career.”

Vince conducted a wrap-up presentation webinar last week, which is available to view on the Fellows project page of the WTI website.  Naomi will present her wrap-up webinar on Wednesday, June 3, at 11 a.m. (EST), and Nate’s will be scheduled for later this summer. To read the Fellows’ entire “Takeover Tuesday” posts, visit the Federal-Public Lands Transportation Institute page on LinkedIn.  For more information on the Fellows program, go to the PLTF page on the WTI website.