STRIDE Student of the Year 2019: Rebecca Kiriazes, Doctoral Student, GaTech

Doctoral student Rebecca Kiriazes (at center) speaking with Dr. Lily Elefteriadou, UFTI/STRIDE professor and director during the CUTC Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. this January 2020.

Rebecca Kiriazes began her transportation engineering journey at the University of Florida’s Transportation Engineering program, participating in projects as an undergraduate student and eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in May 2018. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and has worked on two STRIDE-funded projects.

“After studying civil engineering at the University of Florida and traveling on transportation systems around the world, I became hooked on discovering how different transportation networks support unique communities and learning how sustainable transportation can promote mobility for all,” she said.

Rebecca Kiriazes in Houten, a suburb outside of Utrecht in The Netherlands.

Growing up in Orlando, Florida, Kiriazes felt that the freedom of getting her driver’s license was her only hope for independent mobility. And any experiences related to transit were through Disney World’s monorail, bus and ferry systems.

“So, public transportation seemed like a magical dream away,” Kiriazes said. “Now as a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech, I am expanding my technical knowledge and applying those concepts to new ideas so I can be a part of shaping a ‘magical’ future of transportation. I have found studying transportation to be really fulfilling because understanding how people move is relatable to everyone.”

At Georgia Tech, Kiriazes is currently working on a STRIDE-funded project titled “Enabling the Transportation Shared Revolution,” led by Dr. Kari Watkins and with Dr. Mike Hunter. She says her goal is to understand shared mobility at the interaction level by considering the social dynamics at play in shared rides and how these interactions affect individuals’ willingness to share a ride.

“By investigating the social interaction in mobility sharing, we can create an environment that facilitates sharing and promote efficient use of the roadway by shifting travel from ride-hailing toward ride-share,” Kiriazes said.

Rebecca Kiriazes during TRB 2020 with her poster on the “Impact of Smartphone Applications on Trip Routing and Congestion Management”

A second STRIDE-funded project she has worked on was “Impact of Smartphone Applications on Trip Routing and Congestion Management,” led by Dr. Angshuman Guin. Kirizaes said the study looked at the influence of navigation apps on drivers’ route choice behavior via questionnaires and location history data that were collected to understand the different types of routing apps users and their distinct travel behavior. She also said these navigation apps have a strong rerouting potential as almost half of smartphone app users follow the suggested route for at least 80 to 99 percent of trips.

Kiriazes has had a great start to 2020. On January 11, 2020, she was honored as the STRIDE Center’s Student of the Year, an award that was presented to her at the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Awards Banquet during the 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). Kiriazes’ poster on “The Impact of Smart Phone Applications on Trip Routing”, a poster associated with the STRIDE project led by Dr. Guin, won 3rd Place in the STRIDE Center Student Poster Showcase/Competition on January 13, 2020, an event held in conjunction with the University of Florida Transportation Institute’s Annual Reception during TRB.

Rebecca Kiriazes during the CUTC Student of the Year Award Ceremony. The award was presented to her by Diana Furchtgott-Roth (center), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
USDOT and Caesar Singh,
Director, USDOT University Grants Programs

As for giving back to the community, Kiriazes volunteers with the Girl Scouts of America and MARTA Army, which is a grassroots group dedicated to enhancing the ridership experience on public transit in the Metro Atlanta area.

“I think it is really important that transportation professionals are involved with their community,” she said. “It is fun to be a mentor, work towards positive change, and learn from others perspectives.”