UNL Graduate Student Contributes to Innovative Transportation Research

November 28, 2011

Meet first-year University of Nebraska-Lincoln doctoral student Sunil Gyawali. Gyawali hails from Nepal, but completed his master's degree at North Dakota State University. He is now working with Assistant Professor Anuj Sharma on a Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) research project evaluating driver behavior in stressful driving conditions.

Some may say it's a chance of a lifetime. Some may say he's lucky. Either way, first-year doctoral University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Sunil Gyawali gets to add his participation in an innovative transportation research project to his resume.

The Nepal native is aiding Assistant Professor Anuj Sharma, Ph.D, on his research project focused on evaluating driver behavior in stressful conditions. The project is called "Effect of Freeway Level of Service and Driver Education on Truck Driver's Stress - Phase 1." Sharma and Gyawali assess student drivers' anxiety by using equipment such as cameras and an instrument called BioPac, which measures the drivers biological changes such as heart beat and skin condensation.

The Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC) partnered with Central Community College's truck driving school to use student drivers as test subjects. The study is funded by the Mid-America Transportation Center and is said to be a fresh approach in the realm of transportation research.
"It's a pretty new area," Sharma said.

Gyawali got the opportunity by sending his resume to Sharma. The professor said he was looking for a student who had prior knowledge of the field and could immediately participate in the research with minimum training. Gyawali's master's degree from South Dakota State University made him perfect for the job.

Gyawali is in responsible for the data collection and data processing of the project, which he said is his favorite part.

Sharma said he was impressed not only by the quality of work, but also by Gyawali's work ethic, carefulness and dedication on the project. He called Gyawali "one of the most hard working students" he has found.

"He is very dedicated. Most of the time, I see him in the office," Sharma said. "I've never told him he had to follow a certain time. He feels this project is his own and he pushes for it."

Sharma added that it is important for students to be interested in the topic they're researching and take pride and ownership of their projects.

Sharma also mentioned that Gyawali's leadership has been invaluable to the project because it would not be possible for him to do everything that is necessary. Sharma said that Gyawali's multi-faceted capabilities are not only helpful, but absolutely necessary in a project this size.

"It's not a single job which he does, he plays multiple roles over time," Sharma said.

Sharma further elaborated on Gyawali's roles explaining that he is a mentor to undergraduate students, represents the university when giving presentations, and a hardworking graduate student when he takes the initiative to analyze the data on his own.

Gyawali said he has learned both technical and social skills such as handling equipment and working with many different people that are involved with the project. He said he think those learned skills will benefit him in his future endeavors.

He also said he thinks this research could be beneficial when he writes his dissertation.

Gyawali expects to graduate in 2014 and wants to work in the transportation sector as a developer.

This MATC project is expected to be completed in the spring or early summer of 2012.

To learn more about this project, click here.