MATS UTC Student of the Year: Afi Anuar

Professional photo of Afi Anuar

Student of Year:  Khairul (Afi) Anuar

Graduate Student

Transportation Research Institute
Old Dominion University


For the past 24 years, the US Department of Transportation has honored outstanding students from each UTC in a special ceremony held during the Council of University Transportation Centers’ (CUTC) annual banquet as part of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) annual meeting. Recognized for outstanding academic performance, technical merit, professionalism and leadership, each student representing a UTC from across the country receives $1000 and a complimentary registration to attend the annual meeting.

When Khairul (Afi) Anuar learned that he had been selected as the 2015 Region 3 MATS UTC student of the year, he was flattered and surprised. A PhD student in civil engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU), Afi’s focus on transportation issues runs deep. He is interested in understanding the linkages between support for planning/policy issues and perceptions of environmental issues. He has also studied multi-modal transportation, focusing on logistics and freight transportation, and is interested in traffic flow theory primarily utilizing emerging probe vehicle technology.

“This award is an incredible morale-booster,” Afi explains. “For me, it has reinforced the importance of pursuing research projects that contribute to our understanding of sustainable transportation practices.” Research advisor, Dr. Mecit Cetin, concurs. “This UTC award definitely increased Afi’s motivation to connect his research to larger transportation sustainability issues. When implemented, Afi’s research on predicting traffic flow conditions based on probe vehicle and fixed sensor data will improve the state of practice and give public agencies new tools to better manage traffic to minimize delays and environmental impacts of surface transportation.”

To that end, Afi is exploring the use of mobile sensors, such as GPS, to identify bottlenecks and other traffic conditions. These issues are currently addressed using stationary sensors that provide data only at a specific location. “Static sensors are expensive to install and operate and they only provide a snapshot of information at a specific location. Mobile sensors have the capacity to provide much more relevant information all along a given route, giving us much better information to evaluate and respond to traffic conditions, such as delays, queues and incidents.” Although Afi’s focus is on the technical aspects of harvesting data from probes and fixed sensors to better predict network conditions, he contemplates that privacy issues may pose the biggest threat to widespread adoption.

In February, Afi presented the research on mobile and stationary detectors at the ITE spring meeting in Charlottesville.  “It was an eye-opener for me,” he says. “I met so many people from outside of academia who come from so many different fields within the transportation industry. Yet we’re all tackling common issues.”

His interactions with MATS UTC have broadened his perspective about potential applications and implications for the public. “My interest in transportation issues was always research-based.  I would sit at my computer and work on different modeling challenges without necessarily thinking about the broader context.  Working with other researchers at the UTC has given me new ways of looking at problems from different viewpoints.  To have real value, transportation challenges should be addressed within the framework of an economic, policy and market strategy and not just be theoretically-based.”

Ultimately, Afi hopes to pursue academics and inspire young civil engineers to appreciate the importance of the transportation field. “It’s not just about roads and bridges – it’s about the vehicles and drivers on top of those structures.  It’s not just about materials and designs – it’s about making steady technical advances that address safety and environmental impacts.”

Afi received his MS degrees in civil engineering from Old Dominion University and in industrial technology from Eastern Kentucky University. He holds a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Hartford.  In addition, he has completed a graduate certificate in maritime, ports and logistics management from Old Dominion University.