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Innovative Research on Display at TRC Research Expo
- By Ben Carlson
“Drive Like a Local!” proclaims the research poster by Kristine Harootunian, a master’s student in civil and environmental engineering, at the TRC Research Expo. This year’s poster competition featured 19 student posters, showcasing research from across the disciplines. Harootunian’s research included the examination of 5 years of the Vermont State Crash Database, with a major finding that out-of-state drivers have double the odds of being at fault for a single vehicle crash. Crashes with two vehicles, however, were not significantly different. Her poster earned first place in the poster contest and the headline in the Burlington Free Press coverage of the Expo (“Beware of out-of-state drivers, on main roads at least”).
Image Right: TRC Expo '13 Poster Competition winner, created by Kristine Harootunian
The many posters at the Expo covered a wide range of topics, demonstrating the huge breadth of research, education and programs active within the transportation field at UVM; from biodiesel emissions, to pervious pavement, to transportation workforce development (See abstracts here). An independent judging team looked for the posters that displayed the greatest potential for societal impact and influence; advanced overall bodies of scholarly knowledge; embodied innovative and creative explorations; exhibited high levels of collaboration or interdisciplinarity in the research design and execution.
Geoffrey Battista, a master’s student in Community Development and Applied Economics, won second place for his research, “Estimating the Effect of Mobility and Food Choice on Obesity”. A major factor, according to Battista’s study of the literature, in determining choice of food and mobility is the built environment, which in turn could impact obesity. Studying survey data covering Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine from 2008 and 2009, Battista is developing final models to determine the connection, with prior results showing rural residents less likely to benefit from the calorie burn of an active commute.
Image Right: Geoffrey Battista with his poster, which won second place (Photo courtesy Richard Watts)
Isaac Lawrence, a master’s student in the Rubenstein School, utilized the UrbanSim modeling tool to assess flooding and stream health due to impervious surface, testing his constructed model on Chittenden County, Vermont. His research tied for third place with Nathan Belz, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering. Belz was also featured in the Free Press article for his project, “That’s Not How You’re Supposed to Drive through a Roundabout!! His research observed improper use of roundabouts, such as stopping without reason, entering unsafely, or yielding to drivers entering and not only found that they occur, but that some happen frequently.
While only four prizewinners were formally recognized, multiple speakers at the Expo gave high praise for the value of the many posters and the tremendous breadth in research that they represented for efforts of the university and the Transportation Research Center. Michael Lewis, AASHTO President and Expo Keynote Speaker, placed a large emphasis on research as a key component for solving our issues in transportation in his Expo presentation. Sue Minter, Deputy Secretary at VTrans, echoed that in her opening comments, citing the value to the state of having a Transportation Research Center at UVM, especially one that works in close partnership with the state agency and other transportation sector organizations working in the state. The posters presented at this year’s expo are important indicators of the value of interdisciplinary research and collaboration at UVM and in how the TRC will continue to play a significant role in advancing new solutions to the transport challenges of the future.
Image Right: Nathan Belz presents his poster to Tim Johnson of the Burlington Free Press (Photo courtesy Richard Watts)