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Civil Engineering Student Receives Amtrak Engineering Scholarship

September 4, 2018

When Ariella Liebman, BSCE 2020, submitted her winning application for the 2018 Amtrak Academic Scholarship program, she was riding aboard one of the company’s trains. While that may seem like fate, she didn’t know when she started college she would end up on this track.

Civil engineering wasn’t on her radar when Ariella first arrived at Northeastern University. As a high school student, she excelled at physics, and knew she wanted a career in which she could apply the science in some way. She entered college as a Physics Major, but quickly realized civil engineering was the perfect opportunity to merge her love of physics and her interest in the built environment.

At Northeastern University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), students interested in transportation engineering learn to design and build the infrastructure of the future. Using cutting-edge smart sensing technology, simulation, informatics, and data and network science, students gain the tools to reimagine our transportation systems-- and reimagining transportation is exactly what Ariella wanted to do.

The U.S. is heavily automobile dependent, and Ariella has identified rail as a potential solution to the co-occurring problems of inequity and pollution created by a system so reliant on private transportation.  “I want to create a future where rail is a more accessible and widely used mode of transit,” Ariella wrote in her scholarship application essay. Building autonomous vehicles and high-speed rail, integrating renewable power into transit systems, and engineering innovative methods to reduce the costs of tunneling to add capacity in dense cities can help push the U.S. rail system into the future.

Since joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ariella’s major has taken her beyond the classroom and around the world. She began a co-op in transportation planning at Vanasse Hangen and Brustlin, Inc.’s Boston office, where she contributed to the analysis and design of different forms of travel. After completing her first co-op, Ariella journeyed to the Netherlands to study sustainable urban transportation systems in a course taught by CEE professor Dr. Peter Furth. Her final project for the course involved designing a bike highway through the Boston neighborhoods of Mattapan and Dorchester. “Her team found solutions to every obstacle, producing a design for a direct, low-stress bike route that, if constructed, would be a game-changer for residents of those neighborhoods,” said Furth.

Having returned from the Netherlands, it’s not back to the classroom quite yet for Ariella. Beginning in September, she will start a second co-op at the Manhattan office of Vanasse Hangen and Brustlin, Inc, where she is excited to work on new projects. After completing Co-op, Ariella will return to Northeastern to continue her studies. “I am very proud to receive this scholarship, especially from a company that I admire so much,” Ariella said.

The 2018 Amtrak Academic Scholarship program awarded 10 students across the country who demonstrated academic and extramural achievement, and a passion for “railroad and contributing to the future of the industry.” Five scholarships were available for students with a business focus. Ms. Liebman received one of five Amtrak Engineering Scholarships.