United States Air Force 1st Lt. John Kulikowski, who is currently enrolled in the master’s degree program in transportation engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was recently promoted to captain and chose to hold his July 6 commissioning ceremony at ICT headquarters at the Advanced Transportation Research and Engineering Laboratory in Rantoul, Illinois, while standing alongside the Accelerated Transportation Loading Assembly (ATLAS).
Among those in attendance at the ceremony were Kulikowski’s wife, daughter, and son; parents, three brothers, and sister; ICT director Imad Al-Qadi; and Marshall Thompson, professor emeritus of civil engineering at Illinois.
Captain Kulikowski says he chose to have the ceremony next to ATLAS because he wanted the promotion to be special. “I am a civil engineer through and through. I selected ATLAS because it is the largest in the United States and only one of a few of its kind. I feel it is a perfect representation of where academia meets the real world. I’m not a theoretician but a practitioner. I believe a blending of the two is where true engineering happens.”
Captain Kulikowski is attending the University of Illinois as part of a program sponsored by the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and was one of two U.S. Air Force civil engineers selected to earn a master’s degree, with a follow-on assignment at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The Air Force Institute of Technology has various advanced degree programs but not in pavement engineering. Therefore, Captain Kulikowski was sent to Illinois to acquire the specific skills he needed to carry out his mission. He is specializing in airport and highway pavement design.
“The ICT project I am involved in now focuses on evaluating the failing pavement of the taxiways surrounding the main terminal at O’Hare, which were constructed in the 1980s,” he explains. “We are using LiDAR and laser scanning to evaluate surface distresses, heavy weight deflectometer testing to determine layer strength and load transfer efficiency, and coring for near-surface and hardened properties. We are also demonstrating the value of flying unmanned aerial vehicles for topography, drainage modeling, condition assessment, and even for some public relations.” On the basis of the data collected in the project, the research team will make recommendations for rehabilitation strategies.
Next January, Captain Kulikowski and his family will move to Tyndall Air Force Base where, as an Airfield Pavement Evaluation Team chief, he will lead a team of airmen to bases around the world to perform destructive and nondestructive pavement tests to ensure safe operation of aircraft. He says he looks forward to working with airmen in an operational environment again and hopes one day to move to Europe.
In his remarks during the ceremony, Captain Kulikowski thanked his entire family for providing “the foundation for the man I am today.” He also acknowledged the support of his past and current professors, “who have expanded my mind and added new tools for me to accomplish my job now and in the future.”