Researcher Spotlight: Daniel Work
RSI researcher Daniel Work is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the control, estimation, and optimization of transportation systems, mobile sensing, inverse modeling, and data assimilation.
“Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is getting old, and to get better performance out of those aging systems, we need to link our physical transportation infrastructure and our computing infrastructure to solve the critical issues in transportation,” Work says. “Computers are getting so much faster and sensors so much cheaper and easier to deploy, it is allowing us as researchers to see more about how those systems work in the real world so we make them better and improve their performance. That’s the big picture of what we’re working on in our lab.”
Work’s diverse professional experience gives him the expertise needed to study the intersection of transportation and technology. In addition to holding a Ph.D. in civil engineering, he spent a number of years at the Nokia research labs developing smartphone apps for traffic estimation and working for Microsoft research on traffic estimation.
Currently, Work is conducting an RSI-sponsored research project to improve rail-crossing safety through the accurate prediction of train times. The project studies train delays to accurately estimate train arrival times at crossings to support in-vehicle driver alerts on personal navigation devices. It will also enable effective management of emergency response resources on the road network when trains at crossings may temporarily disconnect emergency vehicles from parts of the community they serve.
“Just knowing that there is a rail crossing doesn’t mean much—there’s only a very small period where drivers need to be alerted to possible delays or collision risks and possibly rerouted around a crossing,” says Work. “Giving drivers information about when trains might be at those crossings can provide a variety of safety and operational improvements on our road network.”
Work earned his bachelor's degree from Ohio State University and a master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, each in civil engineering. His awards and honors include receiving the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in 2014 and the IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society Best Dissertation Award in 2011.