News | USC MS ECE Student, Elena Vindrola, wins WTS-LA Zephyr Rail Scholarship

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by Namitha Nixon, USC, Business of Cinematic Arts 2024

First year graduate student, Elena Vindrola, is the grateful recipient of the WTS LA Zephyr Rail $5000 scholarship for women pursuing careers in the transportation sector.  She is pursuing a Master of Science in Green Technologies) at the University of Southern California (USC), Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.


Elena Vindrola, Master of Science in Green Technologies, Viterbi, USC


"I am honored to be awarded the Zephyr Rail Scholarship by the Women’s Transportation Seminar Los Angeles Chapter Board of Directors,” Elena shared.  “In particular I want to thank Zephyr and the scholarship sponsor, Jacqueline Patterson, for this great opportunity."


Elena is passionate about changing the world with sustainable transportation, and shares that her interest in the field began during her undergraduate studies at UCSD where she majored in Environmental Systems and, as part of that, studied transportation as a major source of anthropogenic carbon emissions. “I became really interested in finding engineering solutions to decrease the environmental impacts of traditional transportation modalities,” Elena explains.


After completing her master’s degree, Elena hopes to promote and assist with compliance with and the necessary technology for Executive Order N-79-20 that requires all new trucks and cars sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles by 2023. She is also eager to help the world transition into renewable power generation for electric vehicles, “I believe that a collaboration between the transportation and the energy industries is essential to create a sustainable future”.


Elena credits her experience in numerous internships with helping her to gain the experience, skills, and focus to both find her path and to be successful in it.  She notes one in the Sustainability Department of the City of San Diego as particularly valuable and appreciated being able to analyze energy data to promote the Climate Action Plan goals. She has also served as a Research Assistant for the METRANS Transportation Consortium, where she helped deliver metrics to track the economic competitiveness of the freight industry to evaluate the impacts of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan. In addition to the WTS-LA scholarship, her lengthy list of awards includes the Provost Honors at UCSD and Certification with Distinction at UC Berkeley Extension.


“I had the pleasure of working with Elena on a project to develop economic competitiveness and growth metrics to track the health of the freight transport industry and its dependent sectors under the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan (CSFAP),” says USC Professor Dan Wei.  “Her contributions were valuable and numerous, ranging from data collection/management/analysis, report writing, to present to the project working group of freight industry representatives and California state agency staff.  Elena is bright, creative, responsible, and diligent, with a keen appreciation of multi-disciplinary solutions to transportation and environmental issues.  The award is well deserved, and I look forward to seeing her develop to a creative and engaged researcher in transportation policy and planning in the coming years.”


Elena is currently a Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) Intern working in the Electrical Engineering Section of Burbank Water and Power within the Transmission and Distribution Team where she is responsible for a diverse range of projects and tasks related to transmission and distribution.


Elena is also active in student organizations on campus.  She is a member of the USC Re-Volv (an organization which empowers people and communities to invest collectively in renewable energy), Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), the Campus Organization for Students of Italian (COSI) and Yew SC Surf (USC Surf Team) student organizations at USC.  Elena advises students to “Join clubs, volunteer, leverage on the opportunity to get experience through internships, fellowships or research positions with professors working within the fields of transportation or planning.”


Elena is an inspiration for all women, particularly those interested in pursuing careers in the transportation field, and we look forward to seeing where her journey will take her.


About the Author

Namitha Nixon is an undergraduate sophomore at the University of Southern California studying the Business of Cinematic Arts and a student writer for the METRANS newsletter. Outside of classes, she serves as the VP of Career Development for the Marshall Entertainment Association and the VP of Administration for the Marshall Women’s Leadership Board.