Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor for engineering at The Texas A&M University System, director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), and dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering, made her first official visit to TTI on March 22. She was accompanied by Dr. Dennis O’Neal, associate dean for research and deputy director of TEES. They were treated to a day filled with tours, briefings and a roundtable discussion with some of TTI’s key academic partners.
In her opening comments, Banks noted that she was already familiar with TTI through Purdue University’s transportation research program. She previously served as the Bowen Engineering Head for the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University.
“I’ve heard so many good things about TTI even before I came to A&M,” she said. “TTI is the leader in the field in terms of innovation. No agency or organization can compare.”
After hearing an overview of the Institute from Agency Director Dennis Christiansen, Banks and O’Neal visited the Environmental and Emissions Research Facility. Joe Zietsman, division head of the Environment and Air Quality Division, provided them with a snapshot of some of the testing projects under way in the facility. Jeremy Johnson, associate research specialist, and Doh-Won Lee, associate research scientist, showed them the environmental chamber and the other equipment available at the facility.
The weather wasn’t conducive to a crash test, so instead of seeing the real thing, Dean Alberson, assistant agency director, gave a briefing on TTI’s Roadside Safety and Physical Security crash-testing activities. Once back at TTI headquarters, Banks and O’Neal made brief stops at the TransLink Laboratory and Texas Transportation Hall of Honor before participating in a working lunch.
Ginger Goodin, head of the Planning Division, provided an update on TTI’s policy research; Cathy Reiley, senior research scientist, discussed the legislative studies TTI is involved in; Jon Epps, executive associate agency director, provided examples of transportation sustainability research in the area of materials and pavements; and Jason Crawford, regional manager for the North Texas Region, featured some of the recent research projects conducted by TTI’s urban office staff.
After lunch, Katie Turnbull, executive associate director, and Melissa Tooley, director of the University Transportation Center for Mobility, facilitated an academic roundtable discussion attended by Forster Ndubisi, head of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning in the College of Architecture; John Nichols, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics; and Arnold Vedlitz, director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, all at Texas A&M.
“We were honored that Dr. Banks took the time to spend almost an entire day at TTI learning more about our research initiatives, meeting our leadership and interacting with our academic partners,” Christiansen said. “She has been a great supporter of TTI during her short time at A&M, and we look forward to inviting her back to TTI many more times in the future.”
“You do fantastic work,” Banks said in her concluding remarks at the end of the day. “I knew you were good before I came. I’m even more convinced now.”