Carnegie Mellon University
October 10, 2013

New CEE Faculty Member Highlights Relationship Between CEE and University Traffic Center

New CEE Faculty Member Highlights Relationship  Between CEE and University Traffic Center

As transportation systems become increasingly connected to other urban infrastructure systems, the need for collaborative, interdisciplinary management of these systems rises. CEE faculty have been actively involved in efforts to align urban infrastructure systems research with transportation research. One such effort is T-SET, Carnegie Mellon’s U.S. DOT University Transportation Center (UTC). The UTC brings together researchers from CEE, Electrical Engineering, Robotics, and other departments to develop interdisciplinary engineering solutions to urban transportation issues. 

CEE’s most recent faculty appointment, Assistant Research Professor Zhen (Sean) Qian, brings his expertise in transportation infrastructure systems to the transportation research taking place at CMU. Qian completed his PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of California, Davis and his postdoctoral work at Stanford University. He has a joint appointment with Heinz College and with the Institute of Complex Engineered Systems (ICES), whose programs include the UTC. 

“CEE researchers are involved in several different projects with the UTC, which focuses not only on transportation systems but also on physical infrastructure,” said Duquesne Light University Professor Chris Hendrickson, whose current research deals with the long-term impacts of connected autonomous vehicles. He noted that research on infrastructure systems is increasingly tied to transportation systems research, and cited the research on bridge structural health monitoring being conducted by CIT Dean Jim Garrett and Paul Christiano University Professor Jacobo Bielak as one example. “Fortunately, the lines of communication between CEE and the UTC are very open.”

This active sharing of information is part of what drew Qian to CEE. “What most interests me about urban systems research at CMU is the unique interdisciplinary research environment,” said Qian. “All of these professors work together. They constantly exchange ideas with each other and their research complements each others’ research, and that’s pretty exciting. You won’t find that level of collaboration anywhere else in the country.” In addition to teaching a course on intelligent transportation systems this fall, Qian will be applying his expertise in network analysis to construct a data engine that brings together datasets from various urban systems—vehicle tracking, bridge structural health monitoring, and more—to enable public agencies to manage urban systems in a more holistic manner.