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Job description: Serves as assistant professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rutgers University. Also serves as director of the Rutgers Rail Program. Leads or coordinates rail-related research studies, teaches rail transportation and engineering, works with industry collaborators to solve critical problems, develops new technologies and nurtures the future workforce for the rail industry.
Education: M.S., Ph.D. in civil engineering with a focus on rail engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Nominator's quote: "As one of the few individuals in North America having earned both a Master of Science and doctorate in railroad engineering, Xiang Liu was uniquely prepared for his current role as the founding director of the Rutgers Rail Program, now in its fourth year. ... In addition to leading transformational change as a researcher, Dr. Liu is also preparing the next generation of railroad engineering professionals, many of whom may go on to become future Rising Stars." — Bryan Schlake, Penn State University-Altoona
Describe how your career path unfolded. Upon receiving my Ph.D. from UIUC, I was very fortunate to take a faculty position at Rutgers University to build its rail curriculum. I started my professorship in 2014. I established its first rail-centric academic program and a growing rail engineering curriculum with tremendous support from my colleagues and industry partners.
What brought you to railroading? I majored in maritime transportation when I was an undergraduate student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. When I was learning intermodal transportation, I found great interest in freight railroading. Later, I decided to go to the United States to study rail engineering. My exposure to rail research at UIUC triggered my interest in various aspects, particularly data sciences and intelligent systems. I think that the rail industry will continue to boom, and I am determined to make a bit of contribution by innovating the technologies used by the industry.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of? My students started to extensively study rail engineering in pursuit of their Ph.D. or M.S. degrees, similar to what I did 10 years ago. Some of their work has been published in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals. I feel very proud to see these young talents are pushing the rail academic frontier with great enthusiasm.
What's a fun fact about you? When I was an undergraduate, I played soccer for four years on my departmental team.
Do you have any hobbies? I enjoy reading books, particularly history books.
What inspires you in your career? The rail industry is moving toward increased intelligence and connectivity, in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and automation. There are tremendous challenges and opportunities that exist or will emerge in years to come. I was very fortunate to grow up in this technology boom. I feel extremely excited to develop fundamental research and practical solutions to assist the rail industry in addressing technical challenges and generating new opportunities to continually increase safety and operational efficiency. Meanwhile, I am greatly inspired to see more students studying rail engineering and considering working in the rail industry upon graduation.
What do you hope to be doing or learning in five years? I hope five years from now I am able to at least double the number of Rutgers students learning or researching rail engineering.
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