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Surabhi Gupta

Hometown: Hardwar, India (on the foothills of Himalayas)

Living in: New York City, NY

Current position: Lead Modeler with Parsons Brinkerhoff

Graduated from UT/CTR: December 2004

Hobbies: Traveling, hiking and spending time with her husband and daughter.

What is your title, and what is your role at PB?

I am a Lead Modeler with PB’s Activity Based Model Development team. I have been with PB New York for over 8 years now.

I develop models to evaluate transportation projects and analyze policies. Applications include highway capacity projects, congestion pricing, toll road studies, public transit improvements, bike lane policies and land use scenario testing.

What did you study?

I did my BTech (Civil Engineering) from IIT Delhi followed by M.S. (Transportation Systems) from University of Texas, Austin.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working on challenging and intellectually stimulating problems. We are constantly trying to improve our transportation models to better match human and system behavior. I am constantly learning new things on my job. Also, I get to work with some very smart people in our field.

Why did you choose to come to UT/CTR in the first place?

I think UT offers a great transportation program for students looking for a blend of both academic and practical learning. I chose UT to get a chance to learn from the best researchers and practitioners in the field.

What did you get out of your time at CTR? How did your time here prepare you for your career?

Well, I met my husband at CTR… ha ha.

I would say that because of my courses and research work, I could contribute a lot more at work early on. Two skills that I learnt from my time at CTR – (a) Travel choice model estimation and (b) TransCAD/coding in GISDK – really helped when I started working

What projects did you work on while you were here? Who was your supervisor?

I worked on a SWUTC research project to assess the traffic, land use and economic impacts of road pricing and congestion pricing in Austin. Dr. Kara Kockelman was my supervisor.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town (called Hardwar) on the foothills of Himalayas in India. The town was so small that there wasn’t even a single traffic light. As a kid, I remember being excited whenever I saw traffic lights in the big cities that we visited.

What got you interested in transportation? Was there a specific event that inspired you to pursue such an offbeat and unconventional career?

I come from a family of engineers and it was a natural choice to pursue engineering as a career. I went to Indian Institute of technology (IIT), Delhi for Bachelor’s in Civil engineering. I don’t quite know how it happened, but Transportation as a field probably grew on me slowly. Most of my professors at IIT recommended pursuing graduate studies in transportation since it was a growing field. I was interested in math, so given the amount statistics involved, travel demand modeling was a good career fit for me.

What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation?

As transportation engineers/modelers, we help shape how our cities evolve. Though it can take years sometimes, we get to see some of our work being put to good use around us. It is fulfilling to know that we were part of a team that made such change possible. Also, there is good work-life balance and great job security in the transportation field.