News | Newly minted UCI Phd Naila Sharmeen Launches her Career

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by Nikitha Kolapalli, USC, Master's in Healthcare Decision Analysis 2021

Meet Naila Sharmeen, 2021 Ph.D. graduate in Transportation Science from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dr. Sharmeen completed her bachelor's and Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). Sharmeen developed a keen interest in Transportation Planning since her undergraduate study at BUET. She has also developed projects like “Developing a Generic Methodology for Traffic Impact Assessment of a mixed land use in Dhaka city: A case study of New Market City Complex” and “Development of a GIS-based model for optimum traffic flow distribution: A case study on selected major routes of Dhaka city” during her time at BUET. She thanks her undergraduate thesis supervisor Prof Dr. Suman Kumar Mitra for playing the leading role in growing her interest in the field of transportation planning.



She shares that working as a planner and also as a lecturer at BUET for almost 4 years was instrumental in providing her with invaluable experience as a planning professional and as a research academician. Sharmeen joined UCI’s Transportation Planning and policy with interests in activity space-based spatial analysis, travel demand management, transport-land use interaction, a combination of transportation-environmental planning and management. “It was a roller coaster ride,” she says. “Now I really regret not enjoying every bit of it. UCI gave me unforgettable amazing experiences. I discovered my strength and regained my lost belief in myself. UCI taught me how to win in the end and overcome even the most difficult situations in life. During my Ph.D. time here I gave birth to my daughter Ilma which is so far the best achievement of my life. Giving birth and raising her while simultaneously finishing my degree gave me enormous confidence and inspires me till now with the feeling that I can do Everything. My husband Rabiul (a Ph.D. student at UCI currently) also has a great contribution to make everything easy for me here in UCI.”


Sharmeen explored spatial and spatiotemporal statistics, spatial data science, and time-series analysis in her Ph.D. dissertation through using software like ArcGIS and analytical techniques like Panel Regression Model. One integral and unique part of her Ph.D. research was to incorporate human factors (perception/attitudinal statements based on qualitative analysis) to influence activity space. She has demonstrated the ability to efficiently utilize quantitative statistical software (e.g. SPSS, Stata, R studio) and conducted basic analyses (e.g., t-tests, correlations, regressions, ANOVA). During her Ph.D. coursework Sharmeen performed time-series data analysis by using R Studio to develop ARIMA model, different GIS-based project works.


Sharmeen was thrilled to receive the Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship Award from the UCI Graduate division for the year 2020-2021 and notes that it allowed her to continue to contribute to the planning field through her research and innovative ideas. “Current context specially COVID-19 pandemic definitely affects the planning field more specifically transportation planning as people’s spatial and travel behavior have been directly affected. Other planning branches are also being affected by COVID. The planning field has always been in greater connection with historical movements and changes,” she explains.  “That is why while reading the history of planning we can find many historical events shaping different planning methods and techniques especially in the branch of city/urban planning.”


Until now, Sharmeen has focused on academia, but she hopes to explore the urban and regional planning industry and the practical work-related challenges beyond theoretical knowledge on transportation planning. She intends to work as a postdoc before hitting the industry. She suggests incoming graduates follow their passion.


About the Author:

Dr. Nikitha Kolapalli is a health economist/clinical pharmacist pursuing her Master’s in Healthcare Decision Analysis from the USC School of Pharmacy. She works as a staff writer and editor for the METRANS student team. She is deeply passionate about maximizing accessible, equitable, and affordable healthcare.