Grad student spotlight: Soumya Sharma

Soumya Sharma

Soumya Sharma is a fifth-year Ph.D. student with a concentration in transportation systems. She grew up in Madhya Pradesh, India, and is advised by Professors George List and Billy Williams. Sharma is a member of the NC State Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Women’s Transportation Seminar, and previously worked as a Highway Safety Analyst for the Federal Highway Administration in conjunction with the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. 

What influenced you to go into engineering? 

SHARMA (S): I was always fascinated by the work of engineers and grew up in a family of engineers — my father is also a civil engineer. I like that the “final products” of civil engineers are often tangible; I find that very satisfying. 

What problem(s) are you trying to solve? Why was NC State / CCEE a good fit for you? 

S: I am trying to study how emerging truck technologies such as driverless trucks, e-commerce deliveries etc. impact our transportation system. Gaining a better understanding of these impacts helps transportation engineers and planners better manage our cities and communities, while keeping up with the evolving needs of our digital world. 

NC State was a great fit for me because the ongoing research projects were closely aligned to my areas of interest. I also felt that the university offered great infrastructure and resources that would help me as a Ph.D. student. 

Where did your passion for this particular focus come from? 

S: I got interested in the “big picture” of transportation while working on a project funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. I worked with a team to assess the impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles on the transportation system. This project opened me up to the world of transportation planning, and I found that there were many other aspects of technological advancements (such as e-commerce) whose impacts on transportation are still not fully understood. I found this research gap to be very motivating and based my dissertation on it. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

S: I am graduating this fall, and I have just started full time at AECOM, where I will be working as a transportation data scientist. I am excited for this new journey and look forward to helping shape communities through my work. In five years, I aspire to be in a leadership role, bridging the gap between technology advancements and infrastructure. 


This story first appeared in the CCEE Fall 2023 Newsletter.