Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Eleftheria (Ria) Kontou

Dr. Ria Kontou was encouraged to take transportation courses by great mentors while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens. During her studies, she worked to complete her undergraduate thesis on bus-to-depot allocation a decision that helped her down the transportation engineering road. Ria’s fascination with the potential for engineers to improve transportation systems efficiency kept her interest in studying transportation engineering.

Ria went on to earn her master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. She continued to be drawn to the ability transportation engineers have to provide the means to access economic and other opportunities to people in the communities they work. Ria’s passion for the field motivated her to continue her studies at the University of Florida.

Dr. Kontou was drawn to UF as a place to continue her studies for multiple reasons; the graduate curriculum itself, the diverse expertise of the faculty here, and the UFTI Fellowship she was offered. While at UF, she worked on her Ph.D. under the advisement of Dr. Yafeng Yin. At UF, Dr. Kontou focused her dissertation research on designing policies to promote the adoption and optimize the operations of plug-in electric vehicles in the U.S.

Reflecting on her work, Dr. Kontou recalls that she “enjoyed this project a lot since I got the opportunity to blend theory and practice.” She continues that this research allowed her to “provide important policy implications for transitioning to electrified mobility, achieving higher energy efficiency, and reducing environmental externalities for the U.S. light-duty vehicle sector.”

Since graduating from UF in 2016, Dr. Kontou has worked in research positions at the National Renewable Energy Lab and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Currently, Dr. Kontou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Outside of her passion for her work, Dr. Kontou enjoys visiting National Parks and other trails where she enjoys hiking.