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MIT student blogger Becca H. '12

Almost a Real Engineer by Becca H. '12

my foray into the world of professional conferences

I am currently in Washington, D.C., to attend my first Transportation Research Board meeting, and then a conference on sustainable transportation called Transforming Transportation. Flying down was a bit nerve wracking due to the weather conditions in both Boston and DC; the first real snowstorm of the season in Boston, and an expected ice storm in DC (who ever heard of an ice storm?!?—we don’t have that kind of thing in the West), that was supposed to bring a quarter inch of ice. But I made it here, with a delay really only to get the plane de-iced (nice work JetBlue), and I am ready to begin a full week of transportation.

For some background, TRB is the biggest transportation conference in the country, attended by over 10,000 people every year from all over the world, with thousands of presentations, sessions and workshops. Transforming Transportation is a much smaller conference put on at the end of the week by the World Bank and an organization called EMBARQ that focuses on what I am passionate about—sustainable transportation in developing countries.

I haven’t had much structure to my IAP thus far, mostly just focused on moving, getting settled after a semester abroad, applying to jobs and the like, and rowing. I decided to come down to DC for the conference back in October or November when I learned I might be able to get some funding to come from Course 1. There are a lot of Course 1 grad students who come to TRB every year, but I figured I would at least ask, and now here I am. The grant I got is covering most of the cost of the week, but not quite all, but I am still excited to be here, network and listen to what is going on in the industry.

I’ve known for about a year now that transportation is the field I am most interested in, but didn’t really know what that meant. I took a course in urban transportation planning in Fall 2011 that I really enjoyed, and that got me interested in learning more. I spent a lot of time reading papers and blogs on urban transportation, and decided to get an internship with a transportation consulting firm over the summer. My view of the field had been pretty narrow before the summer, but I was exposed to a lot of new concepts, programs, ideas and people who are passionate about the field. This past semester was fundamental in shaping my post-graduation plans and career goals. By observing how transportation systems worked abroad, by meeting people working in the field in a variety of capacities around the world and have the ability to converse with them, I was able to better define my own interests.

And what are those interests? Urban public transportation in developing countries. If anyone wants to know more, let me know; I’m happy to talk your ear off. For now, I’ll segue back towards TRB. I’m starting off the conference today with a session for new attendees in the afternoon; I’m excited to learn what this week will entail and what type of issues are at the forefront of people’s minds right now.

More from DC later, but for now, some pictures from my run this morning:

4 responses to “Almost a Real Engineer”

  1. Carfreak Gauve says:

    plz post more details once you finish your week…thanx..

  2. That’s awesome Becca! BTW what kind of transportation systems do you study?

    Although I am most probably going to major in economics, I am really interested in transport especially airports and highway systems…

  3. Becca H. '12 says:

    @Siddarth: I am most interested in informal transportation in developing countries, particularly paratransit (taxis etc.). Economics is huge in transportation– it is great to hear about someone interested in it.

  4. @Becca- Sorry for the late reply, been busy with a lot of things..

    That’s great. Since I am from India I can say how important and underrated is the contribution of informal transportation. Here we have something called autorickshaws, which are somewhat like a three wheeled scooter. Even if you have just 30 minutes left to make it to somewhere 30 km far, no problem, the auto drivers will make sure you reach there in time! Of course this will mostly come with like a dozen of near heart attacks!!

    Yep, I really like studying the impact of better roads on the local economy, interconnectivity with multiple transportation systems etc. But somehow almost all the people around me seem flabbergasted when I talk to them about economics in transportation!