Student Spotlight: Deja Jackson

Jackson is a first year civil engineering doctoral student from South Carolina specializing in transportation who entered into the program this past fall. She is projected to finish her degree in four to five years and is currently working on research studies pertaining to autonomous vehicles.

“Specifically, I am looking at the various perceptions of vehicle safety and how this will affect the implementation of autonomous vehicles,” she said. “I am accomplishing this by developing a position paper.”

When asked about why she chose transportation engineering, she recounted an event in high school that motivated her to get involved in the discipline.

“I come from a very small island town (Saint Helena Island) that has literally one main artery on and off of the island, which leads to two arteries,” Jackson said. “The summer preceding my freshman year in high school, the McTeer Bridge, one of my island’s two main arteries, was struck in the wee hours of the morning by a barge carrying a crane.”

Jackson went on to say that because of the accident the bridge was rendered unsafe for use and it was closed down for repairs, which became a huge burden to everyone in Beaufort and surrounding areas. “A commute of six miles to my high school that usually took 15 minutes turned into a two hour journey because all of the traffic had to be routed over the downtown swing bridge,” She said.

When it came time to pursue her graduate studies, much like her field of study, choosing University of Florida was a ‘no-brainer’.

“UF just felt like home in comparison to other campuses I visited,” she said. “I really enjoyed the vibes on the campus and those of the faculty with my prospective department… I am pleasantly surprised at how receptive and approachable everyone is here and the number of frequent one-on-one conversations I am able to have with the staff in my department.”

After graduation, Jackson is interested in becoming a Research Engineer working abroad somewhere in Africa or Asia. To students wishing to study in this field, she had this advice to give: “Keep an open, but clear mind to what you want to accomplish and always remember that there’s more than one way to get to wherever you’re going so never get discouraged when things don’t go exactly according to your plan.”