UTEP student recognized as the top national Ph.D. candidate of the 2018 Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program
FABIOLA TERRAZAS DUARTE | March 20, 2019
The College of Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso helps students significantly to achieve their goals and succeed on their career through several transformative programs. Such is the case of Victor Garcia, Ph.D. student at the Civil Engineering department.
Garcia was recognized as the top national Ph.D. candidate of the 2018 Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP) at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting on Jan. 14 in Washington DC.
Since 1983, the DDETFP awards fellowships to students who are pursuing degrees and doing research in any transportation related discipline to attract and retain nation’s brightest minds and future leaders to the field of transportation.
“It means a lot and I think it came at the perfect time because I have been having really good moments, like I really enjoy my work which enables me to conduct research, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and developing new research ideas for future projects” Garcia said. “I always say that this is my passion and when you have a passion you really do your best to reflect it throughout your work quality and commitment.”
Every university in the country is able to apply for fellowships or scholarships in order to help students excel in their respective areas. The DDETFP has a variety of programs for students to apply to. Garcia got the fellowship program where they offered him full ride, his tuition paid, as well as his research and a trip to Washington DC to present his research at 2018 DDETFP Research Showcase during the annual meeting of the TRB.
“I believe UTEP launched me to succeed in my professional career since everything started here at UTEP. When I was in my senior year, I was invited to be a volunteer at CTIS, the Center for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, so I started there as any other undergraduate student,” Garcia said. “As an undergraduate research assistant I was fortunate to be named a TRB Minority fellow and published my first technical paper on a first tier research journal: Journal of the Transportation Research Record.” “I was working on a project sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation and I learned well how to characterize different civil engineering and pavement materials that we use at CTIS, and then they motivated and offered me to stay for my master’s degree.”
Garcia believes that the support he got from professors Soheil Nazarian, Ph.D., Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., and Imad Abdallah, Ph.D., was instrumental for the success he’s had in his career so far. “It’s not hard to recognize the passion and work ethics that Victor had for research from day one,” Abdallah said. “I think in the near future, we will call him Professor Garcia. As a Texan, I hope he decides to stay and teach in Texas, but I will not be surprised if he goes to a top 10 university in Transportation like Berkley or MIT.”
“My advisors always encouraged me to get involved on and applied to many programs such as the UTEP and Southern Plains Transportation Center (SPTC) best thesis awards as well as becoming active member on professional committees from TRB and other professional organizations.” Garcia said that his advisors saw something and believed on me and probably at that time Garcia was not able to envision how his career will progress, but they were supportive and encourage him to push his limits and embark on new experiences.
Garcia is the first UTEP graduate student who has been recognized as the national top Ph.D. student from the DDETFP, but this recognition is the result from Garcia’s continuous participation on research projects and fellowships from the same program. He has been also awarded the fellowship for Minority DDETFP for Hispanics in 2014 and 2015, as well as the national DDETFP fellowship on 2017 and 2018.
“I fell much honored to receive this prestigious recognition and represent UTEP at this level. I hope I can use this great opportunity to motivate and mentor other undergraduate and graduate students while they pursue their professional careers at UTEP,” Garcia said. Garcia’s future goals are to contribute to scientific research and encourage young civil engineering students to seek advanced degrees on their field of interest through a professional career in Transportation Engineering.