Every year on September 15th, the engineering community in India celebrates Engineering Day. This special day is a tribute to Sir M. Visvesvaraya, who is considered one of the country’s best engineers. To UFTI doctoral candidate Pruthvi Manjunatha, this day is especially important because learning about Sir Visvesvaraya throughout his formative years is what led him to pursue a path in engineering.
“Throughout grade school, we used to study about him and the various engineering feats he accomplished and I wanted to pursue a career in which I could create tangible change.” Manjunatha said.
In keeping up with his interests, he wasted no time and upon graduation from high school, applied and was accepted into the Sir M. Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology (VIT) in Mysore, India to begin a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Manjunatha was involved in a research project for two years studying geotechnical properties of coal ash-soil mixtures, and it was this is experience that led him to pursue his graduate studies.
Manjunatha completed his undergraduate studies at VIT and was soon accepted into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay for his master’s studies. This was the point in his career when he started branching out into all things transportation. As a master’s student, Manjunatha was awarded a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service to work on his thesis project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Here, Manjunatha calibrated VISSIM, a traffic simulation tool, for conditions in India.
“Though the project itself focused on data from India, I found the interaction with the VISSIM developers mutually beneficial,” he said. ”Also, the time spent at Karlsruhe helped me understand the philosophy and approach of the German faculty towards traffic engineering research”.
After graduate school, Manjunatha landed a job working for ATKINS, a global engineering firm. At ATKINS, he worked primarily on traffic engineering projects in the UK. Although he enjoyed working with the company, doctoral studies were always on his mind, thus began his journey toward pursuing a Ph.D. in transportation engineering. He applied to various universities but in the end chose UF.
“UF was one of the universities that responded really well and quickly during the recruitment process.” Manjunatha said. “The research areas that I was interested in matched with that of the work of the faculty, especially that of Dr. Lily Elefteriadou.”
These days, Manjunatha is working on two different projects at UF with his doctoral adviser, Dr. Lily Elefteriadou, who is also the UFTI director. One of the projects involves evaluating the performance of adaptive traffic signal systems in several arterial corridors in Florida for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
“We want to see which of the systems is more effective and what type of corridor and traffic conditions are best suited for their application” he said.
The second project Manjunatha is working on is related to the UFTI’s new driving simulator. The goal here is to create training materials and a use-policy so that the simulator can be accessible to the research community in the state. As a part of his dissertation work, Manjunatha will also be using the driving simulator to conduct experiments to measure human factor parameters. He plans to use the driving behavior elements and model them in a traffic simulator.
As for the future, Manjunatha is hopeful that he will find a career path that will allow him to apply the knowledge and experience he gained in school.
“During my time here, I got to teach an undergraduate course on Introduction to traffic engineering, and with combined teaching and research experience, I am looking forward to the appropriate career path in the future” he said.