Con-GRAD-ulations CEE’s class of 2020

Congratulations to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s transportation class of 2020!

Alma Mater, the beloved bronze mother figure that has greeted generations of University of Illinois students, wishes new graduates a successful journey. Alma is wearing her own graduation cap and gown. The base of the statue bears a plaque that reads, “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.”

While we wish we could be together to celebrate your incredible achievements, we’re sharing them in a Q&A format, looking back on their favorite memories and sharing all that awaits their bright futures.

Without further ado, let’s start the pomp and circumstance!


Adrian Diaz de Rivera visits a major coal transfer facility as part of his research efforts during his time at UIUC.

Adrian Diaz de Rivera, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “My favorite memory is bonding with the other students in my research group (and) spending way too much time in our office in the Newmark basement. I would also say I loved having the opportunity to travel to conferences around the country and world to discuss and present the rail operations research I conducted at Illinois.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “First, I want to take a breather after two years of engineering grad school. I then hope to get a job at an engineering consulting firm working on major rail and transit projects in the U.S. and abroad.”


Shuocheng Guo enjoys a bike ride near the State Farm Center in fall 2018.

Shuocheng Guo, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “The orientation week and the exciting research topics would be my best memory in Illinois.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “Working in academia.”


Xiyue Li, middle, is all smiles on her wedding day last year posing with Xinlei Wang, a professor of UIUC’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and her husband’s advisor; husband Zhonghua Zheng; Hadi Meidani, a Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor and Li’s advisor; and Lei Zhao, a CEE assistant professor and Zheng’s co-advisor. Li met her spouse while studying at UIUC. Zheng is also a CEE student.

Xiyue Li, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “I came here three years ago. There are so many wonderful memories that I want to share, (including) the first time that I made a presentation (at) TRB (the annual Transportation Research Board meeting), the first time that I attended a job interview, the first time that my parents came to (the) U.S. and we had a family trip together.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “I (will) work as a transportation engineer for Champaign County Regional Planning Commission after graduation.”


Yujia Lu

Yujia Lu, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “A majority of my favorite memories include the wonderful people that I met here. (The) ICT (Illinois Center for Transportation) open house, Engineering Open House and moment(s) spent with friends enjoying (the) beautiful fall and spring Illinois weather are a few of my top favorites!”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “First, I’m going to continue my studies. Second, I’m going to get job as a lecturer and be the best lecturer in the university.”


Priyanka Sarker

Priyanka Sarker, doctorate

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “Too many to choose from, but the final year leading up to my graduation is probably my most memorable memory at the University of Illinois. It was very tiring with lots of deadlines to meet, but the fact that I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel made it all super exciting and worthwhile.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “I recently moved to Southern California to start working at the Boeing Company. Primarily, I work with the aviation community and regulators worldwide to provide technical support on anything related to airport pavement infrastructure. (I also) promote the continued development of the world’s airports so that they can support next-generation commercial airplanes. So far so good! Honestly, who knows what the future holds with everything that’s been going around. But being an Illinois alumna, I am open to taking up any challenges that may come my way!”


Quang Tran won several soccer championships while pursuing his doctoral degree.

Quang Tran, doctorate

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “The time when I was a Ph.D. student at UIUC was the best in my life. It gave me all kinds of emotions ― I felt sad from a class grade, stressed from the qualifying exam, the preliminary exam (and) paper deadlines; and happy when I passed the doctoral defense. I also met and made lots of friends from classes, my research group, and Open House parties and Kent Seminars at (ICT), where all transportation students gather every semester.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “I am doing a postdoc at (the) Bioacoustics Research Lab at UIUC, and (I) will apply for a faculty job in the near future.”


Han Wang

Han Wang, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “It is hard to pick just one memory. The most treasured thing here for me is that I got to meet a lot of friends. They are from different countries and have different cultural backgrounds. But it is amazing that we can talk and communicate over the same topic and also learn about different ways to live. I got inspired a lot, and (I) feel more confident in pursuing something I like for my life.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “I plan to continue my academic career, pursuing a Ph.D. after my graduation. After that, I am not sure. I will try to figure it out with learning from others and reflecting on myself.”


Shiyuan Wang was all smiles posing in front of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. earlier in January when she attended the 99th annual Transportation Research Board Meeting.

Shiyuan Wang, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “What I have harvested most at UIUC is that I got to know so many amazing people here, including both knowledgeable professors and my schoolmates. It’s really amazing to be taught by the word-class faculties, and I indeed benefited a lot from it. With regard to the moments I love most, I think they’re the afternoons when my friends and I played Frisbee together at (the) main quad and south quad. I also loved the time when we were doing projects and solving difficult problems together. We had a great time and became better together. I will never forget those beautiful memories.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “As for my future plans, I plan to further my studies as a Ph.D. student and hopefully gain more insight into the area I am interested in and carry out meaningful research. Also, I want a Corgi or Collie as a companion in the future.”


Fan Yang captures a rainbow over the Grainger Engineering Library.

Fan Yang, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite memory?

A: “Studying in Grainger (Engineering) Library late at night.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “I am going to work as a game designer after graduation.”


Jiaxi Zhao

Jiaxi Zhao, master’s

Q: What’s your favorite UIUC memory?

A: “My best memories are all related to people here, (including) my classmates and our time spent overnight in Newmark and Grainger for exams and friends. (Also) my amazing fellows in RailTEC (Rail Transportation and Engineering Center) and the pizzas and snacks that we shared in the office. My boyfriend, (who I) met in RailTEC, and the conference travels that we had together. (My) professors and my advisor who helped me and supported me a lot.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “Continue (on to the) Ph.D. program in RailTEC and become a great researcher!”




Click here to view more CEE 2020 graduates.

Written by: Emily Jankauski

Posted: May 20, 2020