UFTI Alumnus Dr. Ziqi Song Incorporates UF Student Experiences at USU

**CORRECTION: The Newsletter Email lists the tenure track position at University of Utah. It should be Utah State University. **

Dr. Ziqi Song, a UFTI alumnus, was recently offered a tenure track position at Utah State University. As his dreams are becoming reality, Dr. Song looks back and considers himself fortunate to have spent his time at UF as a graduate student.

Dr. Song attended UF from 2006-2011 in a combined Masters/Ph.D. program in Civil Engineering, making special preparations early on toward an academic career after graduation. He says, his faculty adviser Dr. Yafeng Yin, was particularly kind to him. Through Dr. Yin, Song learned what he considers the most important factor for shooting for an academic career: a balanced background of publications, research grants, and good teaching record.

“When you look at the job market, there are many industry jobs and not so many academic, so it is very competitive,” said Song. “It is important to balance skills with qualifications.”

A huge opportunity for Song was an open call from Research Institute of Mobility Research through BMW needing a postdoctoral fellow to do six months of transportation research in Munich, Germany. This opened the doors for possible academic positions in Europe due to networking and learning how research institutes worked. After six months, he returned to UF, and was offered work on a research grant through the same German institute, on which he served as Co-PI. This particular grant-funded work ended up being one of the major factors in receiving his new tenured position.

“If you can serve as a PI or Co-PI, that’s good, but at least assist your adviser in preparing grants,” said Song as advice to students on the same career path. “Your experience in grants will be asked in interviews, and you will have answers to give.”

Dr. Song is grateful for his many experiences while at UF, but none more than the education and advice from UFTI faculty. From Dr. Scott Washburn’s lectures on proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, Dr. Siva Srinivasan’s project mentoring, Dr. Lily Elefteriadou’s support in taking opportunities, and Dr. Yin’s stance on balanced backgrounds, Dr. Song remains very appreciative.

“I received many benefits from the TRC,” Song said of the UFTI – formerly called the TRC. “You don’t realize it while you’re there but definitely after. And UFTI supports students going to TRB, even without papers. This is not something common to other universities, and TRB is very important in research and job hunting. After coming to USU, I realized how lucky we were at UF.”

Another aspect Song admired of UF faculty advisers was the wealth of interdisciplinary expertise available to students. He is emulating this practice in his own sphere of influence by reaching out to other departments at USU. For example, when his students have questions, he brings experts from other departments for answers, such as from USU’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics, as well as Electrical & Computer Engineering. Not only do the students gain a new prospective on the topics, he says, but this interaction can also form relationships outside their department to collaborate on potential research grants.

Song also hopes to rekindle the ITE passion from UF at USU. The first thing he did when he began work at USU was contact the state ITE organization to start a student chapter. This past semester alone, he invited four people from the government, private and public sectors to share their job-hunting experiences and to speak about the differences amongst the sectors to give students an idea of what they will be expecting after graduation.

“When I was a student at UF, we had lots of events, monthly seminars inviting professionals to speak, picnics,” Song said. “When I moved to USU, I really missed the ITE events.”

Dr. Song hopes to build a very successful research program that can inspire students at USU, just as he was inspired at UFTI. UFTI is proud to have its legacy live on through alumni like Dr. Song.