November 15, 2021
Equipped with a PhD in transportation engineering and inspired by teaching and research in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nipjyoti Bharadwaj has joined the faculty at a prestigious university in India.
As an assistant professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, he will focus his research on developing a safer transportation network to reduce traffic crashes, improve communities and promote sustainable growth.
“My immediate focus is to develop research approaches to understand better the driving behavior and traffic safety related to the northeastern region of India,” he said. “Mizzou Engineering provided me with a platform that helped me look at the bigger picture and the effect of state-of-art technologies on transportation systems in terms of mobility and safety. I can apply what I learned at Mizzou to conduct research at IIT.”
From India to Mizzou
After completing his master’s in India, Bharadwaj wanted a PhD experience that would allow him to expand upon his study of transportation engineering and pursue his goal of helping to reduce traffic crashes — a global public health concern.
“I looked into PhD opportunities at various universities in the U.S., and I found the transportation engineering division of Mizzou to be attractive because of the amount and quality of research happening there,” he said. “The projects happening in Mizzou Engineering made it a place where I could apply my analytical skills and acquire hands-on experience in new practices in transportation engineering.”
During his doctoral program, Bharadwaj investigated the role of driver behavior, roadway and environmental factors in safety-critical events. He was lead graduate student on the second phase of a Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2). He led the formulation, estimation and validation of various statistical methods of machine learning models to quantify crash risks in different domains such as work zones, young drivers and drivers with sleep conditions.
After earning his PhD, Bharadwaj received a National Research Council fellowship to conduct post-doctoral research at sponsoring federal laboratories and affiliated institutions. The position afforded him a rare opportunity to research at the Federal Highway Administration’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Centre. There, he continued to study safety using the SHRP2 Naturalistic Driving Data.
“SHRP2 Naturalistic Driving Data is a novel method of safety data collection,” Bharadwaj said. “The method can provide more insight into real-world driving behavior compared to the traditional method of data collection. I plan to use my learning and experience from the US to conduct such experiments for Indian traffic conditions.”
A passion for academia
Bharadwaj’s interest in using his skills in an academic setting comes naturally. Both of his parents are in academia, and he learned from a young age that teaching is one of the most socially valued professions.
His PhD experience at Mizzou reaffirmed that, as he had the opportunity to work with undergraduate and master’s students in the lab.
“These experiences allowed me to understand the importance of creating a
friendly and unintimidating learning environment to encourage students’ wide-ranging discussions,” Bharadwaj said.
He also saw the impact of that type of environment during his own experiences. Bharadwaj said it took a little time to adjust after moving to the U.S. from India, but civil engineering Chair Praveen Edara and faculty members helped him get settled.
“My academic advisor, Professor Edara, encouraged me and provided guidance and support throughout my doctoral research at Mizzou,” he said. “He was easy to reach and always found time for graduate students.”
Professor Carlos Sun and Henry Brown, a research engineer, were also instrumental to his educational and research experiences, Bharadwaj said.
And that’s the type of environment he hopes to create in his own classrooms and labs at IIT.
“I believe that a more interactive and engaging class environment is crucial to instill curiosity in students to boost their thirst to gain knowledge and pursue learning independently,” Bharadwaj said. “It equips students with the ability and confidence to take up new concepts on their own. These roles and the desire to be in a learning environment have contributed to my increased passion for teaching and inspired me immensely toward pursuing a formal teaching career. I would recommend Mizzou Engineering to all aspiring students who want to make a career in civil engineering.”