Nebraska Department of Defense Project Offers Challenges, Experience, and Graduate Success

Huong Pham standing next to CIGOS 2019 conference banner.

Santos Ramos, a PhD graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, finished his dissertation project summer 2019 with the Nebraska Department of Defense. In his last step towards graduation he presented and defended the project early August to his advisor Dr. Laurence Rilett, and professors Dr. Aemal Khattak and Dr. Albert Ratner.

The project's goal was to create a software model using SimTraffic/Synchro 9 that the Department of Defense (DOD) can use to simulate changes in Entrance Control Facilities (ECFs) to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. The product is used to analyze traffic behavior and capacity. The DOD can use the models to simulate changes that could be made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ECFs.

Santos has been working on the project since the summer of 2017, as the project was starting phase four. He worked with micro and macrosimulation and statistical analysis to achieve the desired result. This was the first time Santos worked with SimTraffic/Synchro 9 an after grasping the program he learned to push it pas the limits, since it wasn't made to monitor ECFs. The software was primarily chosen out of DOD request, since it already had their certificate of networthiness.

Santos gave credit to Dr. Rilett for showing him that just doing the basics was not enough, and it paid to go further. As advisor, Dr. Rilett would check Santos's work, making sure the numbers made sense and the template behavior looked correct. With an extra eye on the project Santos could make sure the project was always focused on the DOD's original goal.

He also got to see the side of researching that is not discussed in classes, that is working with a client. Rather than research for research's sake, the project is done to produce an end result for the sponsor of the project. This requires regular meetings and a time constraint to make sure the project is on track. There were four to five meetings a year with advisor Dr. Rilett and two engineers from DOD in attendance. Santos learned to confidently present the work that had been done and explain the next steps.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) collaborated on the project, using their facilities to conduct driving behavior tests by creating in the lab what was proposed in the simulations to see what the situation would look like in real life.

The greatest things he took away from the project was learning how to conduct research that makes an impact, and being able to assess a proposal to know whether it is significant or not. “It’s cool that their actually going to be using this” Santos says with great anticipation of the finished product. DOD was happy with the project, and Santos suspects it is already in use based on their enthusiasm for its implementation.

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