ICT Student Spotlight: Xiaopeng Li, UIUC

ICT would like to spotlight one of our very active and successful students, Xiaopeng Li, who is a great example of how our student researchers benefit from working on ICT projects. Xiaopeng graduated in early 2011, has since been working at the Caterpillar Simulation Center at the University of Illinois Research Park, and recently accepted a position at Mississippi State University that starts in January 2012. ICT wishes Xiaopeng the best of luck in his future career and thanks him for all of his hard work.

While at UIUC, Xiaopeng assisted with several transportation research projects, working under ICT investigator and UIUC Associate Professor Yanfeng Ouyang. For ICT, he served as a student researcher on the project, “Update Condition Rating Survey (CRS) Calculation / Prediction Models,” where the team developed a VBA based computer program to help IDOT estimate the most-likely pavement CRS deterioration rate over time. He also helped ICT plan and coordinate two major conferences: the National Safety Performance Function Summit and the HSM Lead State Peer to Peer Workshop. He says that participating in these conferences allowed him to interact with professionals from a number of state DOTs and learn recent developments and pending challenges on various highway safety issues. Xiaopeng also worked on several other research projects for sponsors such as CSX Transportation, Association of American Railroads, NEXTRANS, the National Science Foundation,

Xiaopeng says he has learned much from working at ICT and ATREL. “The most important things I learned from my ICT/ATREL projects are the capabilities and skills to build mathematical models to find solutions to various emerging challenges in transportation system planning, design and operations. These projects enabled me to understand how to relate general methodologies and theories to real-world problems in specific contexts, and how to identify a practical approach to solve them effectively. All these projects turned out being fruitful. In the past 5 years as a graduate student, I coauthored 12 research papers (10 accepted or published, 2 under review or revision) in well-cited journals such as Operations Research and Transportation Research Part B, and made 26 presentations at national level academic conferences including Transportation Research Board annual meetings. Besides, through these projects, I have been exposed to all aspects of a research project, including how to plan research schedules and manage resources, how to collaborate with team members and communicate with clients and sponsors, and how to deliver our final products in an effective way. All these experiences will be valuable assets and tools that will continue to help me develop my career in the arena of transportation research.”

Xiaopeng’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. He has won several prestigious awards, including the Best Doctoral Dissertation Presentation Award, in the Travel Analysis Section, at the 90th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board; the Dwight David Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship, from the Federal Highway Administration, in 2010; and the Chester P. Siess Award for Scholarly Achievement and Promise for Research, from UIUC.

Since graduation in February 2011, Xiaopeng has been working at the Caterpillar Simulation Center in the University of Illinois Research Park. He has been developing optimization methods and tools for various problems in transportation networks, supply chains and manufacturing products. He has been applying his knowledge and skills learned through ICT to a broad range of real-world engineering problems and using these skills to improve efficiency and productivity and generate tangible values in industrial operations. However, come this January, Xiaopeng will take his vast experience and skills to Mississippi State University, where he starts as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He plans to continue working on several research topics in the transportation engineering field, such as traffic networks, logistics systems and traffic flow theory.

Although Xiaopeng is excited about his new job, he will miss many things about UIUC and ATREL, especially the many professors and fellow students he has developed close relationships with. “I will miss every professor in ATREL. I have learned a lot from them by taking classes and conducting research projects with them. They have significantly influenced my career choice. Their success has inspired my determination to pursue an academic career. I view them as my role models to follow throughout my professional life. Their guidance to my academic pursuit has paved my career path. With their consistent supports, I finally accepted an offer to become a tenure-track assistant professor at the Mississippi State University. I also miss my colleagues and friends in ATREL. We have been together for more than four years, studying coursework, collaborating on research projects, and, occasionally, hanging out for fun. They provided lots of help to my everyday life, and we are closely bonded in many ways. The images during the ATREL cook-out often come to my mind. I miss the memorable times we had together there, with many kinds of nice food, and Santa at Christmas. I wish we could have more of those gatherings.”

Outside of transportation research, Xiaopeng likes to read research articles from other fields, sometimes for fun. “I think this can help me open up my mind and stay sharp on potential interdisciplinary research opportunities.” Besides research and work, he also likes to participate in some sports, such as tennis and swimming, on a regular basis.