Dr. Nikiforos (Nick) Stamatiadis has trekked nearly all over the world. This past summer he hiked in the Andes in Argentina, achieving a personal goal of climbing the highest peak in South America. But when he’s not enjoying breathtaking scenery on various continents, Dr. Stamatiadis is focused on two things: safe highway design and preparing future civil engineers to become industry professionals.
Growing up in Greece, Dr. Stamatiadis was fascinated by public transportation. The ability to accommodate large groups of people within a networked infrastructure drew him to study transportation engineering. During his undergraduate studies in Greece, he helped develop efficient bus routes and systems. However, because his university did not offer graduate studies in his field, Dr. Stamatiadis came to the United States and began studies at Michigan State. He quickly discovered that, broadly speaking, the U.S. doesn’t rely on public transportation. As a result, he shifted his attention to other aspects of transportation engineering, such as driver licensing, driver education and highway safety.
The last ten years of Dr. Stamatiadis’s research has centered on safe highway design. He says the biggest question for him is, “How do I design something that is going to be safe? Every project has competing features, whether environmental, societal, economic, etc. You try to balance everyone’s need. But if, at the end of the day, I design a safe highway that serves the needs of the community, accommodates mobility concerns and is conscientious of our impact upon the environment, I find that time spent very rewarding.” Dr. Stamatiadis’s work has earned him four National Cooperative Highway Research Program awards pertaining to safety issues in highway design.
While Dr. Stamatiadis appreciates the research autonomy and flexibility that comes with university research, he relishes his responsibility as a teacher. “I have the ability to look at what industry needs and distill bodies of research into lectures and projects designed to produce qualified professionals. One particular advantage we have in transportation engineering is that the everyday world is our lab. Students can easily find many examples of well-designed projects, as well as poorly designed ones.”
Dr. Stamatiadis sees integrating technology with drivers’ assumptions and decision making as a promising area of future research. “Drivers can easily access real-time information on congestion and construction, but we still don’t have a good grasp on how drivers use that information,” he explains. “Do they ‘obey’ the recommendations they are given, or do they simply assume everyone notified of an accident will take an alternate route? There are many opportunities for engineers to make an impact in that area.”
With two decades at UK under his belt, Dr. Stamatiadis shares two hopes—one societal and one personal. His societal hope is that other modes of transportation such as bicycles and buses will become as prevalent in the U.S. as they are around the world. The long-term environmental and economic advantages bear exploring. And the personal hope?
“New Zealand,” he says, smiling. “It’s the only place I haven’t hiked.”