Student Spotlight: Gustavo Riente de Andrade, Ph.D. Student at UF

Gustavo Riente de Andrade is a graduate student in the transportation engineering program at University of Florida (UF). He was highly motivated to pursue his doctoral studies after meeting several transportation faculty at a UF-sponsored workshop in 2010.

Gustavo poster presentation during the 2016 TRB Conference. While attending Escola de Engenharia de São Carlos in Brazil, de Andrade flew to Orlando, Fla., to attend a workshop on the Highway Capacity Manual and was introduced to Dr. Lily Elefteriadou, professor and director of the STRIDE Center. They soon met again at TRB in January 2015, and spoke about de Andrade’s dissertation idea on integrating safety and operations, which was the same idea as some of UFTI’s STRIDE grant projects. After much discussion, de Andrade became a mentee of Elefteriadou while still enrolled at his current school in Brazil. With the support of school advisors at his university who had peers at UF, de Andrade decided to move to continue his studies in Gainesville and was UF bound by 2015.

“UF is preeminent in the area of highway capacity,” de Andrade said. “My parents were transportation public employees, so I grew up wanting to be an engineer. While I am here, I want to form another perspective.”

De Andrade was put to work on STRIDE project “Signal Timing Optimization with Consideration of Environmental and Safety Impacts,” which aims to analyze the best signal programming options to increase both capacity and safety. He hopes this can become a part of a broader planning model, capable of optimizing road investment decisions accounting for operations and safety.

“If you increase one variable, sometimes you may lose another, like if you increase speed, then you lose safety,” de Andrade said. He was thrilled to be working with Dr. Elefteriadou on the project, whom he said was not only a great project manager, but a great advisor in general. 

“She’s very dynamic,” de Andrade said. “She has the perfect balance between managing the project, as well as giving freedom of developing new ideas and concepts for research."

For de Andrade, practical experience is just as important in engineering. Before coming to UF, he worked with an engineering associate in Brazil. While at UF, he has worked with Mr. Bill Sampson, director of the McTrans Center at the University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI).

De Andrade’s advice for fellow students: Get practical experience however you can, even if it is just a small internship.

“Be prepared to work anywhere with anything,” he said. “If there is infrastructure, there is a need for transportation. You don’t have to be afraid of being unemployed. There is going to be a market for us for many years.”

UF student organizations have played a very supportive role for de Andrade. He is a member of ITE, as well as Ph.D. Moms, a UF support group for graduate students with families. Founded by moms, the group is also open to dads, which de Andrade is very grateful for because his wife and child are back home in Brazil. They have since come to visit, but when they’re gone, the organization is a much needed resource.

“Student organizations let you choose what’s important to you and give you the support you need in that area,” de Andrade said. “My family is very important to me, so it is nice being a part of the group while being so far away.”

De Andrade expects to graduate in 2018 and hopes more Brazilian students find their way to UF following his degree-seeking efforts.