Holly Josephs, a Ph.D. student at Rutgers, won CAIT’s 2023 UTC Student of the Year Award for her research on flooding and infrastructure resilience.

When Hurricane Ida struck New Jersey Rutgers researchers went into the field to assess the damage, gather flood data, and develop tools that are now helping State officials better respond to future storms with resilience and equity in mind. CAIT’s Outstanding Student of the Year Holly Josephs played a critical role in this research. She was recognized earlier this month at the CUTC Awards Banquet ahead of TRB’s Annual meeting.

Every year ahead of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting, the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) recognizes the research, academic success, and leadership of some of its outstanding University Transportation Center (UTC) students.

At the 103rd annual TRB meeting, Holly Josephs, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers, received the 2023 Outstanding Student of the Year Award alongside her peers during the CUTC Awards Banquet on Saturday, January 6th.

In her research Holly studies how riverine and coastal flooding affects buildings, infrastructure, access to emergency services, and transportation networks. She creates 3D, data-based visualizations to support decision making in housing and infrastructure rebuilding before and after catastrophic flooding.

Holly works in Dr. Jie Gong’s lab and was part of a Rutgers team that helped NJ officials assess flood damage following Hurricane Ida in September 2021—surveying the damage with drones and lidar systems, gathering data, and building digital twins and flood prediction models.

Part of the UTC project “Assessing and Mitigating Transportation Infrastructure Vulnerability to Coastal Storm Events…,”the team specifically mapped and created a hydrodynamic model for the heavily impacted Manville Township. Rutgers researchers created a digital twin of Manville NJ,  extracting key elevation information for buildings and critical infrastructure systems and using them with the hydrodynamic models to assess flood impacts.

This data visualization provides regional stakeholders with critical tools to better understand flood risk and coastal community needs, inform policy, improve infrastructure resilience, and enhance safety for at-risk communities going forward.

Through this work and other projects Holly has analyzed emergency service disruptions during floods, informed mitigation choices at the NJ state level, presented at conferences, and received the NSF CORE institute fellowship.

“It’s an amazing experience to work with Dr. Gong and the lab team,” she said. “Each team member has specific interests and talents that combine well together to build digital products that aid in reducing the negative consequences of flooding.”

Holly is also a member of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub, a National Science Foundation initiative fostering equitable climate-adaptation strategies for coastal communities.

Dr. Jie Gong, an associate professor at Rutgers and a CAIT-affiliated researcher, nominated Holly for the award.

“Holly has acted as a leader among her peers as a student here at Rutgers University,” Dr. Gong said. “Her efforts have contributed to the safety and resilience of coastal communities across New Jersey. Her dedication and research accomplishments make Holly an excellent ambassador for the UTC Region II consortium.”