• Current lab members

    PhD fellows

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    Gretchen Bella

    Researching Non-Traditional Data for Hard to Reach Populations

    Gretchen’s research focuses on combining non-traditional data sources to understand transportation as a health resource for vulnerable populations. Specifically, she is exploring food access and healthcare access within low-income and senior populations. To do so, she is employing volunteer-gathered field data, cellphone trace data, and qualitative focus group interviews. Ultimately, she hopes to understand how transportation can be used as a tool to reduce barriers to health in these communities.


    Gretchen takes her work with at-risk communities outside of just a research focus by acting as a Graduate Mentor for the Cities Project through the Northwestern Center for Civic Engagement. She also serves on the McCormick Graduate Leadership Council (MGLC) and volunteers for Women in STEM outreach at the Museum of Science and Industry. She worked as a Transportation Analyst in Houston before returning to graduate school and was involved with transportation forecasting and operational analysis.

    Outside of school, Gretchen is a proud longhorn alumni and Texas Football fan! She is an avid hiker and reader and most importantly a dog parent; on the weekends, you can most often find her walking one (or three!) of her rescue dogs, Boris, Penny, and Marge.

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    Spencer Aeschliman

    Behavioral dynamics and time-dependence

    Spencer received his B.A. in Physics with a minor in Mathematics from Goshen College in 2019. Afterward, he interned at Argonne National Lab before taking on a full-time staff scientist position in the Energy Systems Division there. That was his first experience with transportation-adjacent research, which inspired him to apply for a Ph.D. here at Northwestern. Working in Dr. Amanda Stathopoulos’ lab, he is interested in applying econometric and data-driven methods to investigate the causes and dynamics of mobility behavior, especially as people face an evolving set of transportation options and varying infrastructure quality.

    Spencer is a GRFP fellow, see a department article here.

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    Chi-Ya Chou

    Mobility during disruptions, relocation behavior, climate-change perceptions

    Chi-Ya’s research interests mainly lie in transportationplanning, travel behavior, and disaster management. Her doctoral research focuses on studying human mobility in response to disruptions and climate change. Specifically, she aims to study individuals’ short- and long-term adaptation behavior toward extreme heat events in the aspects of mobility and relocation.
    Besides using discrete choice modeling methods, she plans to explore how
    psychology concepts can fit into the modeling process with a consideration of climate change perceptions. She enjoys solving interdisciplinary problems and aspires to explore strategies for future transportation systems and develop more sustainable and resilient urban environments.
    Chi-Ya is from Taiwan, and she completed her B.S. in CivilEngineering at National Taiwan University (NTU). Her enthusiasm for transportation
    research motivated her to pursue an M.S. in the same department with a concentration on transportation engineering. After obtaining her M.S., she worked as a part-time research assistant at NTU to elevate her understanding of disaster management research and machine learning techniques.
    Chi-Ya is also passionate about music and photography. In her free time, she likes going to art museums, trying different cuisines, and watching films.

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    Shuqing Kang

    Psychological, Behavioral, and Policy Considerations for Future Mobility

    I graduated with a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Technion and continued to pursue an M.S. in Transportation Engineering at UT Austin. My master's thesis involved jointly modeling stated and revealed preferences between pooled and private ride-hailing. Specifically, the consideration of psychological and attitudinal factors sparked my interest in the underlying logic and association behind travelers' choice behavior. After graduating from UT Austin, I returned to Beijing to join the Baidu Autonomous Driving Group as a traffic-related software product manager. Working closely with this future mobility tech giant in China motivated me to pursue a PhD at Northwestern, as I recognized the need to better understand the impact of new mobility services on people's lives from an objective perspective. My main research interests focus on identifying patterns of human behavior under different future mobility contexts, considering factors such as automation, sharing, and personalization. I am also interested in stakeholder analysis and policy studies under uncertainty to facilitate a more informed transition to desirable future mobility.

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    Deirdre Edward

    Mathematical modeling and Machine Learning for environmental policy

    Deirdre Edward is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics. She is from Miami, Florida, and earned her B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the resiliency of infrastructure systems in the face of natural disasters, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Deirdre is broadly interested in leveraging mathematical modeling and machine learning to inform environmental policy. Her previous work investigated the effects of widespread telework on public transit ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Deirdre has also completed her coursework for a J.D. from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, specializing in environmental law. She has served as a law clerk for the Toxic Exposure and Health program at Earthjustice, and has been actively involved in advocacy for Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, addressing issues related to Norfolk Southern's railyard expansion in Chicago’s South Side. Her research projects have included studies on the National Flood Insurance Program and the ethical conflicts of being a science-advocating environmental lawyer within a government that prioritizes industrial growth.

    In her free time, Deirdre enjoys the company of her cat, Soju; watching horror movies; traveling on a budget; and outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and scuba diving.

  • Graduated (former) lab members

    PhD. Graduates

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    Erik Huang

    Transportation Equity

    Erik graduated with his B.S. in Civil Engineering and minor in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida. In the middle of his undergraduate degree, he decided to focus his studies on transportation engineering, with its uniquely human aspects and connections to urban planning and forming walkable/sustainable communities. He became involved in transportation research at the University of Florida Transportation Institute, working on projects surrounding autonomous vehicle shuttle technology, shared micromobility, travel behavior, and engineering education. Afterwards, he chose to pursue a Ph.D. to conduct research surrounding transportation equity and public transit systems using data-driven methods. His work in Dr. Amanda Stathopolous' lab centered around distributive justice theory, fairness, and subjective equity standards within transportation planning, in collaboration with the Regional Transportation Authority of Chicago.  

    Erik graduated with his M.S. degree in March 2024. In his next role, he will be working at Jacobs in their Urban Mobility Solutions team as a Transportation Engineer/Urban Designer, designing transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, while also conducting research and analysis for regional traffic safety plans.

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    Maher Nizar Said

    Innovative Goods delivery solutions: Automation, Behavior Analysis

    For his dissertation Maher will study how innovative automated delivery technologies will be received in society. The overarching goal of his thesis work is to build choice modeling foundations for novel delivery technology adoption. Stake-holders at all layers of future supply chains will be called to interact with automated technologies to move goods from sender to receiver. Understanding the barriers and segment-differences in the path to acceptance is a critical first objective to lead the way for this transformation.


    Additionally, Maher has also been involved in the industry as a Transport Planner & Traffic Engineer, working on a variety of projects involving design and analysis of traffic signals, intersections, pedestrian pathways, highways, residential and commercial developments and others.


    Maher defended his PhD dissertation in May 2023 and is now workign as a Data Scientist at Wisk. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mahersaid/

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    Elisa Borowski

    Researching mobility resilience, vulnerable populations


    Elisa researches the impacts of crowdsourced mobility on the resilience of cities to natural hazards and disasters. Through culturally-tuned advancements in discrete choice modeling, the application of sociological theories, and consideration of emotional influences, she examines mobility decision-making during disruptive events. In doing so, she hopes to develop community-tailored resilience strategies not only for large-scale, sudden-onset disasters but also smaller-scale hazards compounded by the chronic stresses of cities and communities. She is interested in exploring mixed-methods approaches for data collection through surveys, ethnographies, and focus groups, analyzed along with large datasets using choice modeling, network analysis, and data analytics.


    Elisa is a recipient of the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. She was raised in New Mexico where she cultivated an academic foundation in structural engineering, evolutionary anthropology, and creative writing, in addition to a love of green chile and vast arid landscapes. She is a library-inhabiting, notebook-filling, puzzle-pondering board game enthusiast with a passion for stories and road trips. She dreams of pursuing a career as a lifelong researcher and writer, contributing to hazard and disaster research centers and United Nations agencies dedicated to disaster management.


    Elisa defended her thesis in december 2022 and has moved on to start her position as Assistant Professor at UC Irvine.

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    Jason Soria

    Ridesourcing and Sharing: Impacts and Policy Solutions


    The goal of Jason’s research is to understand the role that emerging micro-transit services and ride-hailing mobility platforms play in the overall transportation system to help decision-makers create better plans. These services, along with novel forms of delivery and continuous technological innovation, offers opportunities for cities to tackle congestion but also run the risk of producing unintended effects such as reducing active mobility and transit use, or excluding underserved users.


    Jason graduated in 2022, and he has been working at Georgia Institute of Technology as a postdoc since then.

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    Aymeric Punel

    Researching crowd logistics and user behavior

    Aymeric joined our PhD program from France, where he grew up in Normandie, next to Giverny, the village of Claude Monet.

    Aymeric's research at NU was part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on developing intelligence for smart CROwdsourced Urban Delivery (CROUD) system, also known as crowd-shipping. Aymeric's work focused on acceptability and behavioral responses to crowd-sourced logistics systems. He used choice experiment as well as real data coming from a crowd-shipping company's operations. His recent work includes social network modelling, driver bidding strategies and dynamic prediction of a package status by designing random forest models.

    Aymeric's areas of interests are data analytics, network science, social media, as well as travel demand modeling.


    At Northwestern, he is was the founder and president of the Transportation Club, and was previously in the board of the Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council (GLAC), Graduate International Student Association (G-ISA), and McCormick Graduate Leadership Council (MGLC). Aymeric is passionate by the world of aviation and the airline industry. This passion is to link with his appetite for flying and traveling all around the world. His favorite places are Galapagos Islands, Norwegian Fjords, and Japan. He also likes going to EDM concerts and festivals, is a swimming addict, and cannot spend one week without eating sushi.


    Aymeric currently works with the Boston Consulting Group as a Senior Data Analyst.

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    Alec Biehl

    Researching active mobility

    Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Alec investigates travel behavior change processes and market segmentation strategies regarding the adoption of active modes and emerging mobility services. The overall message of his research is that policy design should incorporate more psychological and sociological concepts—such as identity construction, normative influence, and lifestyle orientations—to more effectively address environmental and social sustainability in relation to transportation. Accordingly, one could say that he is interested in fostering connected and autonomous individuals, as opposed to vehicles, within the sharing economy, which has important quality-of-life ramifications for both physical and social communities.


    Outside of research, Alec serves on the executive boards of Northwestern’s Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council and the Social and Economic Factors of Transportation committee of the Transportation Research Board. His life motto is “never stop exploring,” which he practices through frequent visits to new coffee shops as well as natural areas for hiking excursions. Additionally, he is an avid fantasy and science fiction reader, with his personal library growing at a rate of 15 books per year.


    Alec held a position at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee as a Postdoctoral Researcher and currently works as a Senior Performance Analyst at MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority).

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    Alireza Ermagun -- former post-doc

    We wish Alireza the best in his new position.