News | NAU's Emmanuel James Wins PSR Outstanding Masters Student of the Year

Stop the Video



by Adylbek Abdykalikov, USC, IPPAM 2020

Meet PSR Outstanding Masters Student of the year, Emmanuel James, Graduate Research Assistant at the NAU Department of Civil Engineering, Construction Management, and Environmental Engineering.


James is pursuing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with a focus on transportation safety and operations. James was both an undergraduate and graduate research intern funded by the PSR and has been involved in several research projects, including investigating the crash frequency and severity analyses, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and tribal transportation safety, and was lead author on a peer‐reviewed journal article published in 2019 in the Transportation Research Record (TRR), a journal of the Transportation Research Board (TRB).


James was nominated by his Professor at NAU, Dr. Brendan J. Russo, who has known James since Spring 2016. Russo notes James’ work as exceptional in particular for a beginning graduate student.


In addition to leading an article, James is also a co-author of three papers that were accepted for presentation at the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting. One of them which he particularly enjoyed, "Examination of Factors Affecting Injury Severity in Crashes Occurring on Interstate Freeways by Vehicle Type: Analysis of the Arizona Megaregion" analyzes factors affecting crash severity outcomes for different vehicle types on interstate freeways. This paper discusses potential countermeasures to mitigate severe injury outcomes where James played a leading role in the analysis. Overall, James either lead or co-authored six papers over the past years.


James was recognized as a 2019 TRB Minority Student Fellow, one of only 24 selected across the country.  He is also a TRB Minority Student Fellow representing NAU, and a friend of the TRB Standing Committee ABE80: Native American Transportation Issues. As part of his TRB fellowship, James completed research on traffic safety issues on Arizona tribal lands and wrote a paper as lead author. This paper was selected for presentation at the 2019 TRB Annual Meeting, where James was the sole presenter of this work and was accepted for publication in the TRR journal. Professor Russo notes that this is a truly extraordinary achievement. "In total, James has completed seven research presentations at local, regional, and international conferences/professional organization meetings, and he shows great promise for success in continuing to conduct transportation research," he said.



James' student life includes participation in multiple student organizations. He is a member of the NAU student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and currently serves as the 2019‐2020 Treasurer for the NAU ITE student chapter, where he is involved in various ITE activities, such as competitions, attending and giving presentations on recent research works, and outreach activities.


One of the recent transportation outreach activities in which he was involved was the 2019 NAU Science and Engineering Day, part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science. At this event, along with NAU ITE student chapter president undergraduate Katherine Riffle, James operated "Behind the Scenes: How Our Roadways are Designed & Operated." This transportation-themed exhibit aimed to teach K-8 students about various aspects of transportation engineering and showed how traffic signal systems detect vehicles and efficiently move them traffic through intersections. The exhibit also included a display showing how traffic simulation software is used to analyze signal timing before it's implemented in the field. The children had an opportunity to play a traffic-related game where they could create their own traffic signal timing plans. Nearly 100 students and members of the public interacted with the exhibit.


Russo adds that James has also recently assisted him in presenting to a Sinagua Middle School class about the field of transportation engineering and assisted with a presentation to a group of kindergarten students who visited the NAU traffic lab. "These efforts in student organizations and outreach truly show his dedication to advancing the future of transportation engineering, and his potential for leadership in the transportation field," shares Russo.


In his recommendation letter, Russo stated that he believes that James' achievements, particularly his impressive research and publication record, student organization involvement, and community outreach activities, are truly deserving of the PSR Masters Student of the Year award.  And the selection committee agreed.


All of us at METRANS Transportation Center congratulates Emmanuel James on his award and wishes him many achievements in his future career!


About the Author:

Adylbek Abdykalikov is a graduate student in the International Public Policy and Management Program at USC Price. He has working experience in various positions at the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Investment and Development of Kazakhstan and was in charge of Transportation and Civil Aviation policy development and implementation. He serves as the lead writer to METRANS Newsletter and lead student event coordinator for METRANS and PSR.