At the 30th annual CUTC Awards Banquet, a UTC student from Rutgers University was recognized by CUTC as the CAIT 2020 Student of the Year. The award highlights outstanding UTC students and their accomplishments in the field of transportation.

2020 CUTC Outstanding Student of the Year, Prarthana Raja.

CAIT’s 2020 CUTC Outstanding Student of the Year, Prarthana Raja.

Each year during its winter meetings, the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) hosts an awards banquet recognizing the accomplishments of its many students.

This year, the virtual banquet was kicked off with a keynote speech from former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at the U.S. Department of Transportation, who congratulated the award winners on their accomplishments and well-deserved recognition.

She said that the transportation industry is in the early stages of a historic wave of innovation, and that University Transportation Centers (UTC) play a key role in propelling this trend forward by cultivating new technology as well as future leaders and innovators.

Prarthana Raja, a Ph.D. student at Rutgers University was recognized as the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year among her peers at the banquet.

Prarthana is pursuing her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering, with hopes of working in academia after graduation.

Her research interests include transportation planning, infrastructure systems, remote sensing, Building/Civil Information Modeling (BIM), coastal hazard and climate risk; and she said that during her time as a graduate student and National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Trainee, she discovered her passion for characterizing and modeling the built environment to address contemporary issues such as natural disasters.

Speaking of her work with the NSF, Prarthana also said that completion of the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) fellowship, a transdisciplinary fellowship program funded by the NSF, was one of her biggest accomplishments of 2020. After spending over two years learning directly from stakeholders, she is excited to utilize a transdisciplinary approach in her future research.

Skilled in spatial sensing and data modeling, one of the landmark projects she has worked on was scanning and modeling the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC for crowd management during extreme events. Most recently she has also been working on a CAIT study commissioned by NJ Transit using LIDAR and Ultraviolet-C (UVC) to analyze potential new ways to efficiently disinfect NJ Transit buses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jie Gong, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers University and a CAIT-affiliated researcher, nominated Prarthana for the award.

“Prarthana has consistently acted as a leader among her peers as a student here at Rutgers University,” Dr. Gong said. “Because of her hard work and accomplishments, she is an excellent ambassador for the UTC Region II consortium.”