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Civil Engineering Student Wins APTF Bombardier Transportation Scholarship

September 25, 2018

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Student Matthew Schomacker was recently awarded the 2018 American Public Transportation Foundation Bombardier Transportation Scholarship. The prize is given to one outstanding student in the field of rail engineering pursuing a career in public transit or rail manufacturing.  In late September, Matthew traveled from Northeastern University to Nashville to accept his scholarship at the American Public Transportation Association annual conference. But his story starts far from Boston.

In middle school, Matthew Schomacker took a trip to London with his family that changed his life. While the history and sights of the United Kingdom’s capital were certainly appealing, it was the London subway system that captivated him. Its scale and intricacy were awe-inspiring, and he poured over the system’s layout. “Within no time I had studied the [Tube] map so much that my family entrusted me to plan the routes each day,” Matthew wrote in his scholarship-winning essay. “It became a puzzle for me.  The more I looked at the map however, the deeper I dug into how the system worked.  Soon I began asking questions about what I saw as I walked through the stations each day.” Whenever he went to a new place, he studying the public transit systems, from the deeply integrated trains of Germany to the underground labyrinth of New York City to the futuristic lines of Japan.

Northeastern University gave Matthew the opportunity to turn his passion for rail infrastructure into a hands-on learning experience. Before joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Matthew had never met another person with the same interests. Since declaring his major as Civil Engineering, he has traveled around Massachusetts and the globe working on real-world projects. While studying in the Netherlands, he worked on an assignment to ease cut-through traffic congestion that was featured in a Fox 25 News television piece. Matthew completed his first co-op at HDR Inc, a global engineering firm famous for projects such as the Hoover Dam Bypass. He worked on track improvements to Alewife station, the Sullivan Square/Rutherford Ave Redevelopment Project, and the Housatonic Railroad Improvement Project, where he traveled the tracks in western Massachusetts for 9 days inspecting the line and creating a five-year capital plan. It was his boss at HDR Inc. who introduced him to the scholarship opportunity. “Through my travels abroad and my co-op experiences, I believe I will have a lot of background when I enter my first full-time job,” said Matthew.

While still a student, Matthew has a vision for improving the local rail system. “I have grown up my entire life in the Boston area and have many relatives that can attest to the high congestion that the region faces, and that congestion is only slated to grow,” he said. “Our current commuter rail and transit system has a lot of potential.  For example, connecting North and South Station would allow commuters from all parts of the Greater Boston area to reach all parts of the downtown, opening new job opportunities. Residents could also travel through the city without “dead-ending” in Boston.” He would also like to work on a rail line between Boston and New York, using magnetic levitation technology to design a high-speed route.

Matthew Schomacker is a native Bay Stater and Class of 2020 Civil Engineering major. He is the 2018 Treasurer of the Northeastern chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers NU chapter.