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Undergrad takes diverging diamond research to Posters On the Hill

Paige Martz poses in front of Lafferre Hall.

Paige Martz, a civil engineering senior in the MU College of Engineering, recently was selected to present her research and poster on Diverging Diamond Interchanges at the 2015 Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C.

Anyone who passes through Columbia’s Stadium Boulevard and Interstate 70 intersection probably has noticed the intersection’s unusual design; cars are diverted over to the left side of the road while crossing the highway, unlike conventional interchanges, where drivers always stay in the right lane and make wide left turns onto the overpass.

This system of managing traffic is a newer innovation that has sprouted up across the U.S in recent years. It’s called the Diverging Diamond Interchange — DDI for short — and Paige Martz has been studying it for the last two years.

Martz, a civil engineering senior in the MU College of Engineering, has had considerable success in her undergraduate research on DDI’s in Missouri. She recently was selected to present her research and poster at the 2015 Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C.

She was one of 60 undergraduate students chosen from around 500 applicants all across the U.S. to attend the April 23 event and also the sole Missourian to receive the honor in 2015.

Martz conducted her research alongside graduate student Boris Claros and Associate Professors Carlos Sun and Praveen Edara of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Missouri. The team took before and after MoDOT crash data of sites where conventional interchanges were converted to DDIs, using statistical analysis to build a predictive model to find the safety benefit of the DDI.

The research found that Diverging Diamond Interchanges reduced overall crashes by 40.8 percent and reduced fatal-injury crashes by 62.6 percent, numbers that Martz called “a fairly big deal in the research world.”

Martz said that since the DDI is so new to the U.S., she has had the opportunity to take part in pioneering research.

“This research is fairly new and pretty much the first of its kind, because Missouri has the most diverging diamonds in the United States,” Martz said. “So we have enough crash data to do statistical analysis and really evaluate.”

Since she presented her research at Undergraduate Research Day at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City in 2014, Martz thought Posters on the Hill was the next logical step. She submitted her abstract and hoped for the best. She described finding out she’d been selected as “very surprising, but a good surprise.”

Martz’s transportation-based research is a bit different from much of the other selected research, which comes from a variety of disciplines. “A lot of the people who tend to submit things are biological or biology related,” Martz said, “so having something transportation based, which affects a lot of people, I think is a big deal.”

Martz said the Posters On the Hill event is another example of the plentiful opportunities undergraduate research gives for building connections. “It’ll be really interesting to meet a bunch of different people who have succeeded in research, and who are driven and motivated to present their research miles away,” she said.

With the demands of the research and her course load combined with all of her other activities, Martz said her biggest challenge so far has been time management. She’s a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the engineering sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon, the Chi Epsilon Honor Society, the Timber Bridge Team and the Concrete Canoe Team.

But Martz said all the work she puts in is worth it. “(Civil engineering) affects everyone,” Martz said. “I know civil engineering in general is for the people, and I like being able to help people.”

She has a final piece of advice for other students who hope to succeed:

“Always say yes to opportunities, even if that just means applying to something. There’s always the off chance that you’ll get the opportunity to go to Washington D.C.”