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Celebrating the December graduates

12/7/2020 Emily Jankauski

This year’s graduates may not get the usual commencement fanfare, but we’re sending them off with the customary pomp and circumstance. Join us in celebrating the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s transportation group with a Q&A.

Without further ado, meet the class of 2020:

Leonel Evans, a UIUC master’s grad, poses in front of the Transportation Research Board sign at the 99th annual meeting held in Washington, D.C. earlier in January.
Leonel Evans, a UIUC master’s grad, poses in front of the Transportation Research Board sign at the 99th annual meeting held in Washington, D.C. earlier in January.

Leonel Evans, master’s graduate

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time at UIUC?
A:
“Definitely all the field trips. I was fortunate to be able to visit many railroad sites during my time at UIUC thanks to the AREMA (American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association) Student Chapter and various RailTEC (Rail Transportation and Engineering Center) courses. These visits helped me better understand the material I was learning in class, and I got to see some neat facilities, too!”

Q: What are your future plans?
A:
“I will be going to work for BNSF Railway as a management trainee in the spring. I'm looking forward to applying the knowledge I gained here out in the field!”

Q: What’s your advice to future CEE transportation group students?
A:
“Get to know your fellow graduate students! A great way to do this is through involvement in student organizations. I also think this is especially important while we are working virtually since there is little opportunity for spontaneous conversations with other students; meaning it is unlikely you will get to know others without deliberate effort.”

 

Erman Gungor, a UIUC doctoral grad, poses in front of one of the largest load simulators for aircraft loading at the Federal Aviation Administration’s National Airport Pavement Test Facility near Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Erman Gungor, a UIUC doctoral grad, poses in front of one of the largest load simulators for aircraft loading at the Federal Aviation Administration’s National Airport Pavement Test Facility near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Erman Gungor, doctoral graduate

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time at UIUC?
A: “Hmm. That is a hard question. There have been plenty. If I had to pick one, that would be the time that I first got my job offer.”

Q: What are your future plans?
A: “As a data scientist, I would like to keep advancing my career in machine learning and data science.”

Q: What’s your advice to future CEE transportation group students?
A: “Work hard, play hard!”

 

Angeli Jayme, a UIUC doctoral grad.
Angeli Jayme, a UIUC doctoral grad.

Angeli Jayme, doctoral graduate

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time at UIUC?
A: “This is a tough question! I’ve been lucky to have had plenty of great memories throughout my graduate school experience because I’ve met many amazing people. I would like to share two (memories) — both dealing with the power of community.”

First memory:
“I have been involved with the Graduate Society of Women Engineers, (where) not only have I garnered lifelong friendships, but I was also a part of the founding committee to establish the Women Empowered in STEM Conference, hosted by GradSWE at Illinois. The weSTEM Conference has dedicated a forum to promote advocacy and interactions between leaders and students to share life experiences and guide students in their paths forward. It’s eye opening to see a community of students from diverse backgrounds and career motivations converge into similar needs, aspirations and experiences.”

Second memory:
“Last year, our research group had a retreat at Allerton Park. It was so much fun! We were all tasked to lead various activities. My favorite part about that day is that everyone was taken out of our natural researcher element and got to know each other at a more personal level — even Professor (Imad) Al-Qadi participated — let alone the charade games! It was an amazing and fun memory I am quite lucky to keep. I am proud to be a colleague and friend to my research groupmates.”

Q: What are your future plans?
A: “I have accepted an offer to become a postdoctoral research associate with Professor (Imad) Al-Qadi. One of the projects that I am excited to be part of is the Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track, which is a unique facility and experience on its own. I am looking forward to diversify my professional toolbox by learning to establish a unique and impressive new program. Afterwards, I plan to become a professor, and I feel quite excited for future collaborations with many academic, public and private entities.”

Q: What’s your advice to future CEE transportation group students?
A: “My advice would be to utilize the same level and mindset of exploration in your research and classes to nontechnical experiences, including networking and community advocacy. Because not only will you gain great friends along the way, but it will also make your graduate school experience much more meaningful. In the end, I think and hope that any student will feel empowered and ready to conquer the world!”

 

UIUC master’s grad Javier García Mainieri, right, is all smiles while donning a Santa Claus costume and posing with classmate Jordan Ouellet, a UIUC doctoral student, during an annual Winter Open House at Illinois Center for Transportation in Rantoul, Illinois.
UIUC master’s grad Javier García Mainieri, right, is all smiles while donning a Santa Claus costume and posing with classmate Jordan Ouellet, a UIUC doctoral student, during an annual Winter Open House at Illinois Center for Transportation in Rantoul, Illinois.

Javier García Mainieri, master’s graduate

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time at UIUC?
A:
“I don't have one favorite, but many memories I treasure, especially with (the) friends I made here! One I remember fondly is being Santa! In the picture: Jordan Ouellet (a dear friend) and I (Santa) back in 2018.”

Q: What are your future plans?

A: “Sticking around for a Ph.D. and, further down the line, becoming a professor.”

Q:
 What’s your advice to future CEE transportation group students?
A: “Enjoy! The studying late at night, the work, the friends, the conferences, the presentations . . . everything! Don't let these events pass by, live them! Challenge yourself and challenge others!”

 

Aravind Ramakrishnan, a UIUC master’s grad.
Aravind Ramakrishnan, a UIUC master’s grad.

Aravind Ramakrishnan, master’s graduate

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time at UIUC?
A: “My recent favorite memory was playing the Among Us game with my friends in Chambana. What started as playing for just one hour was extended to more than six hours. The best thing about this was we were interrupted by our neighbors as we were laughing and playing loud at around 1 a.m. You would expect that we stopped playing, but we took our mobile and moved to (the) Illini Quad to continue the game. That night was super fun!”

Q: What are your future plans?
A: “I am interested in doing a Ph.D. as it will help me identify and solve the bigger challenges that can improve people's lives. I am glad to be accepted by Professor (Imad) Al-Qadi to continue my doctorate under his guidance.”

Q: What is your advice to future CEE transportation group students?
A: “First of all, I welcome the new graduate students to transportation engineering at UIUC. In graduate life, there will days where we will love our work and there will be days where we wish (for) a normal job. In short, it will be a roller coaster ride, but my suggestion is we should never forgot to have fun in the ride. In the past two years, I understood that it is extremely important to have work and social life balance.”