From the Midwest, south to Texas and back again, Ben Sperry is a transportation engineer looking to support data-driven decision making in transportation investment through research and teaching. He’s also looking to catch a few football games – he did live in College Station, after all.
How did you make your way to these parts?
I’m a native of Springfield, Ill. I spent four years after high school in Evansville, Ind., for college, followed by seven years in College Station, Tex., for grad school. I worked in College Station at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute for one year after earning my Ph.D. in May 2012 before moving to Athens.
Where did you prepare for your profession, and what was special about it?
For undergraduate, I attended University of Evansville, and for my graduate degrees, Texas A&M University. These schools are special because they represent the two extremes of engineering education: a liberal arts school with a small engineering program (my civil engineering senior class had 14 students) and a large research-oriented engineering school at A&M. I feel like my journey has prepared me well for working here at Ohio University because the civil engineering enrollment here is large enough to have some really great educational and research opportunities for the students, yet small enough where faculty are accessible to students. My experience brings both perspectives to the table.
What will you teach and/or research at the Russ College?
Courses in transportation engineering, with a focus on transportation planning. My research seeks to understand how travelers, as well as freight shippers, make decisions and how those decisions impact how we invest in transportation infrastructure.
What would you say is your professional superpower?
My ability to envision a research work plan from concept to final deliverable while developing the proposal. I am always looking for ways to be strategic with resources and move the body of knowledge forward with my research. Anything we can squeeze out of a project is valuable. You won’t always get funded, but I try to make it competitive.
At the Russ College, we "create for good." You'll be hearing this a lot because it's true. How will you "create for good" while you're at the Russ College?
Transportation professionals create for good every day by engaging in projects that help people and goods travel more efficiently, safely, and with less impact on the environment. My job is to make sure that the next generation of transportation engineers is ready to do just that. I’d also like to create for good through my research, which I hope will provide decision-makers with the tools they need to make informed decisions on how to spend scarce resources on transportation investment.
What's the coolest thing about Athens so far?
Most everybody is friendly and willing to help someone out if they need it. From a transportation perspective, the diagonal crosswalks on Court Street are very progressive and reflect the pedestrian-oriented nature of the campus environment (nerd alert!).
What’s the best local food you've had?
Casa Nueva, hands down, although, the burgers at Jackie O’s are tasty also.
What do you do when you're not creating for good?
I am always creating for good! But when I am not on campus I am usually working at our new house or watching sports on TV. You can create for good even when watching football.
Name a top travel destination and why you like it.
Glacier National Park in Montana. The air is so crisp and fresh, and the natural beauty is phenomenal.
Any advice for students this semester?
Treat your studies like a full-time job: Commit yourself to put in 40 hours every week (some weeks you might need more), and you will be successful.