Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) researcher Yanfeng Ouyang is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Ouyang has worked at UIUC since 2005, where he conducts research on developing strategic and operational models and solutions for issues facing transportation systems.

Ouyang is currently working with his colleagues on an RSI-sponsored project that is exploring how to effectively position emergency response resources around railroad crossings. The collaborative project includes developing crash prediction models, predicting train arrival times, and positioning emergency response resources as well as coordinating responsibilities between different jurisdictions.

“There are a lot of hazardous materials passing through the Midwest in trains, so if [a crash] occurs, it’s likely to be catastrophic and it’s likely to disrupt the roadway systems, which are closely integrated with railway systems,” Ouyang says. “With this project we’re really trying to understand how to make the best decisions about deploying resources so that we are prepared to respond to unexpected crashes in real time.”

The study could eventually lead to relocation of emergency response resources such as first-responder stations, allowing them to reach crash sites more quickly and without blockage. Ouyang says the best part of his job is the ability to study topics he finds both interesting and important.

“I enjoy having the freedom to explore topics that are both theoretically challenging and practically important to society,” he says. “With RSI, we use a combination of interdisciplinary approaches from different research fields. The projects are often challenging and we have to deal with many different aspects of a complex system, but the work is very rewarding.”

Ouyang serves as an editor for several academic journals and as a reviewer for more than 40 journals and 10 international conferences. He is a member of multiple transportation-related societies and his work has received numerous awards, including the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Faculty Early Career Development Award from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Ouyang holds a B.Eng. in civil engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China; an M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Washington; an M.S. in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of California at Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from UC Berkeley.

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