It is very evident from her academic achievements that Samaneh Khazraeian loves transportation. Sameneh is a Ph.D. candidate at the Florida International University (FIU) pursuing Transportation Engineering with a focus on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). She completed her master degree in Transportation Engineering with honors from Iran University of Science and Technology in 2010. To get this level, one has to be curious about what drives her passion for transportation. We had the opportunity to interview Samaneh about her journey to a career in transportation.
Where are you from? Was there something about your childhood that sparked your interest in transportation?
I am from Sirjan, a city in the southern part of Iran. When I was young, there were not the traffic jams that exist today, so, I did not have any encounters with traffic problems. But when I grew up and came to Tehran, the capital city of Iran, to continue my education, I could see the city suffering from severe traffic jams. Seeing these problems, I decided to continue my education toward transportation engineering and save people’s time and money and life!
Who encouraged you to pursue the transportation field?
As I finished high school, I participated in national matriculation and was ranked 693rd among more than 400,000 participants in 2005. Due to my interest in physics and the valuable guidance of my siblings, I chose civil engineering and entered Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), which is one of the most prestigious universities in my country.
The wide-spread courses of the bachelor program syllabus gave me the chance to explore and observe the different aspects of civil engineering, so I finally had the opportunity to be acquainted with Transportation Engineering discipline. Moreover, as an Iranian living in Tehran, a megacity which succumbs to huge crowds moving all day long, I realized the importance of improvement in transportation systems. Circulation in big cities of my homeland, especially at peak hours where the streets are so full of cars, is enormous chaos. Lack of experts and improperly functioning systems is vividly evident as the source of such a situation. Thus I am eagerly motivated to pursue my education in this field, and I believe that I could make a difference by exploiting my potential capacities. I was confident in choosing transportation planning as my major in my graduate studies.
What difficulties did you have?
When I was 18, I left my family to study in one of the best universities in Iran. When I finished my bachelors and masters degrees, I applied to FIU (Florida International University) and migrated to the US. It was very hard living and working in a new country while you are homesick. But after all, I feel fulfilled and accomplished. It was worth it.
How has WTS helped you?
WTS opened a new door in my life. It gave me the opportunity to attend leadership events, meet successful leaders, and learn leadership skills. I got to know many amazing female leaders that will help me in my future life and career. From the beginning of my Ph.D., I have served as CSO (Council of Student Organizations) representative of WTS student chapter at FIU. I participated in several meetings hosted by the WTS South Florida Chapter. Seeing successful leaders in these meetings made me think about my ambition to be a leader. What I learned from these meetings was just how strong a woman can be. I am currently serving as the president of the student chapter, which I believe is first to step toward being a leader in the industry. Our student chapter was recognized as the outstanding student chapter by FIU Council of Student Organizations during my presidency. Now I am the Transportation YOU coordinator of WTS FIU Chapter.
What do you love about the field you have chosen?
First of all, I love the fact that I can have an impact on the lives of people. By improving transportation, I can even save lives! Furthermore, I am currently working on a project related to connected vehicles. Connected vehicles can talk to each other and to infrastructure, and the whole traffic surveillance system will look a lot different in the presence of connected vehicles. For example, if there is any incident ahead, other cars can be informed by the connected cars in the vicinity of the incident and change their route and make the best decision. It is amazing!
What is your dream job?
After my graduation, my efforts in this area would ultimately lead to a brighter future in which people lose less time in circulation. The reduction of this waste of time can create many opportunities in huge cities. The less time wasted, the more efficient life will become. My primary goal is to modify the current situation into a better one and improve the quality of life for the people. My dream job is to be a lead engineer. I’d like to be in a leadership role.
Also, I was a Volleyball player when I was in High school, so my second dream job is being a volleyball player!
What are some of your achievements that you are most proud of?
Serving as the President of the WTS FIU Chapter and having a 3.96 GPA. I am also a recipient of the 2016 WTS International Southwest Travel Award, the 2015 Helene M. Overly Memorial Scholarship Award, and the 2016 TRB best student paper award. I am currently working on a Research Project on “Utilization of Connected Vehicle Data to Support Traffic Management Decisions.” I have presented five research papers at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in 2015 and 2016.