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September 2013

Rail News: People

Rising Star: Michelle Muhlanger

Michelle Muhlanger

Michelle Muhlanger [AGE 31]

Deputy Regional Administrator
Federal Railroad Administration

Michelle Muhlanger manages the rail safety program for the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Northeast region. A mechanical engineer who conducted research on vehicle/track interaction and crashworthiness at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Muhlanger was instrumental in developing the FRA's Safety Advisory 2013-02, which alerted railroads that low-speed, wheel-climb derailments of certain passenger equipment designs have stiff suspension systems.

Her boss, Region 1 Administrator Les Fiorenzo, praises Muhlanger for her ability to take on complex issues and for her collaborative way of working with people.

"Those who come in contact with her, including myself, attempt to emulate her drive and passion, and, consequently, find our performances elevated," Fiorenzo wrote in nominating Muhlanger a Rising Star.

In addition to her FRA work, she serves on the executive committee of the Rail Transportation Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, where she is responsible for organizing industry conferences.

Muhlanger's inspiration?

"Starting in graduate school, I was able to go to meetings where former FRA Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety/Chief Safety Officer Jo Strang was in charge. I admire the way she is respected in the rail industry, her confidence, and the way she is not afraid to make big decisions. I definitely get some of my strength knowing that she trail-blazed before me."

Five-year career plan?

"Hopefully, still working for FRA. I want to take advantage of my engineering background and the leadership skills that I'm learning now."

Her hobbies?

Trying new recipes using vegetables from locally owned farms; biking along the trails of Boston and Cape Cod; and downhill skiing.

Her backup career choice?

"When I was an undergraduate, I majored in both mechanical and biomedical engineering. My original plan was to build prosthetics, so I've always had an interest in doing that."


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