UCF alumnus garners White House attention
Most students would be pumped about the opportunity to tour the White House. However, one UCF alumnus had the chanceto give the President a tour instead.
Taylor Lochrane, 28, demonstrated his transportation research to President Barack Obama at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia.
"The opportunity to meet the president and have time with him to talk about our research was remarkable," Lochrane said. "Discussing the value of our research and presenting the technology behind the future of transportation in the United States was a tremendous opportunity."
His role during the demonstration was to brief the president on the research he is leading on building a platform technology to support automated-vehicle research.
Lochrane leads a team that works to promote and develop research to relieve traffic congestion and improve mobility for people in the future. He works under the Office of Operations Research and Development and the laboratory there, called the Saxton Transportation Operations Laboratory. By using connected-vehicle technology, the team hopes to make highways less jammed and safer for travel.
"This is one of two labs that the president visited while he was here at TFHRC. Our office was chosen to present the research that we, as an office, are leading," Lochrane said.
Lochrane graduated with his bachelor's degree in 2008 and achieved his master's degree in 2009 from the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science. He is currently on track to receive his Ph.D. this fall.
As a student, Lochrane was very involved in school activities and clubs, including the American Society of Civil Engineers and the UCF chapter of Institute of Transportation Engineers, while also working part time as an engineering technician at his dad's company.
"When you are in undergrad, you are still trying to find your niche," Lochrane said.
It wasn't until his senior year that he realized transportation engineering was his path in life.
"I chose engineering because I come from a family of engineers," Lochrane said. "Math and science were my strong points."
Lochrane felt especially passionate about his transportation course, which was led by Haitham Al-Deek, engineering professor and Ph.D. adviser.
"Taylor was very passionate about transportation from day one. He approached me showing strong interest in the transportation program," Al-Deek said.
Lochrane later joined Al-Deek's research team as an undergraduate researcher.
From there, Lochrane earned himself several honorable achievements, such as Outstanding Mentor for the 2013 Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups, University Transportation Centers Student of the Year Competition Award and the Student Government Association Graduate Student Achievers Scholarship.
With all of his research and accomplishments, Lochrane said the highest point of his career so far would have to be becoming Student Government Association vice president.
Even during his time in office, Lochrane made student transportation a top priority. He he helped implement student transportation options that are still around today, such as Zimride and KnightLYNX.
"I wanted to support students and make sure this was the best campus and assist the student body," Lochrane said. "I had the ability to make changes to UCF in one year. That was the best thing I'm proud of."
Zimride aims to promote rideshare for students through Facebook, allowing students to connect and carpool for rides.
It aims to cut down on the expense and fuel that negatively impacts the environment.
KnightLYNX is an evening bus service that gives students an alternate method of transportation in the late evenings and weekends.
After meeting a LYNX employee at lunch, Lochrane was able to set up a meeting with the LYNX CEO to discuss funds and budget, and later talk to UCF Parking Services.
"KnightLYNX was something we did [that] multiple student bodies before us couldn't do," Lochrane said.
He also interned and worked at the Federal Highway Administration.
While there, Lochrane embarked on critical research on connected vehicles and driver behavior through freeway work zones.
"One of the big things Taylor did while here is running a distracted driver safety campaign that got attention from Central Florida safety leaders," Al-Deek said. "Taylor is very passionate about his transportation profession and he has a great future."