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Postdoc Spotlight: Xiaodong Qian

Dr. Qian is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program at the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at UC Davis. He received a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China in 2014 and his PhD degree in Transportation Engineering from UC Davis in 2019.

Can you describe the importance of your area of professional focus? 

I am interested in the relationship between emerging transportation technologies and transportation equity. The rapid development of new transportation technologies raises important questions about whether they can facilitate the elimination of unfair privilege gained through historical oppression and at the disadvantaged position of other populations. Inspired by this concern, my research focuses on equity issues in the areas of emerging mobility, transport-related air pollution, and e-commerce freight.

Taking bikeshare as an example, it represents a shared micro-mobility service that should be enjoyed by and accessible to all populations. However, these programs tend to target more affluent, areas with large, white populations, which differs from the public expectation for these systems. Working with my advisor, I investigated a planning strategy for the placement of bikeshare stations, intended to target disadvantaged populations in Chicago and Philadelphia. I analyzed changes in accessibility to jobs and essential services for disadvantaged communities before and after the implementation of a new bikeshare system. This analysis demonstrated that bikeshare systems can produce substantial accessibility improvements for disadvantaged communities and that average improvements can be greater for disadvantaged communities than for other populations. My study also developed a new index that can be used to identify bikeshare station locations that are the most likely to improve accessibility for disadvantaged communities. By comparing these potential locations with current bikeshare stations, my research has demonstrated that most of the current bikeshare stations in Chicago and Philadelphia are not optimally located to serve disadvantaged populations. I concluded that bikeshare systems can reduce access barriers for disadvantaged communities and suggested that equitable accessibility should be proactively considered during the early stages of development and station siting. This research supports a shift in the current bikeshare system design framework, from targeting specific populations to eliminating access barriers for underserved communities.

Why do you choose to continue your Postdoc training at UC Davis?

The ITS center at UC Davis has a great reputation in the transportation research area in the US. This center has a multidisciplinary environment, and you are encouraged to seek various collaborations as you want. Supported by our center, I am now expanding my research to address problems in other important topics, including connected and automated vehicles, and smart infrastructure planning. I really enjoy working at our ITS center.

More importantly, I can apply for some funding to support my own projects in our ITS center. Being a PI is a valuable experience for a junior researcher. In addition, I can tutor graduate students to help with my projects. All those experiences will be helpful for my career development.

How do you enjoy your life in Davis?

I have been in Davis since 2014 and really enjoy my stay here. Davis has a pretty ideal location in Northern California, you can enjoy ocean or mountain views within an approximate two-hour drive in either direction, i.e., east or west. Every winter, I drive to Tahoe Lake to ski and enjoy the breathtaking scenery on the mountain. Of course, I also visit the Bay Area beaches to take pleasure in the ocean view.

After I came to Davis, I also develop some new hobbies, e.g., ice hockey, photography, and badminton. Through those new hobbies, I make a lot of new friends in Davis.

What is your career path for the future? 

For my future, I want to become a professor in Transportation Engineering. I enjoy solving cutting-edge research questions faced by transportation engineering in order to maximize the well-being of all populations. In addition, I want to inspire more students to dedicate themselves to research areas and care about our future.

It is always nice sharing experiences with students, what would be your advice to PhD students?

Build your career plan from the first day of your Ph.D. journey. Add one line (e.g., present at a conference or learn a new skill) in your resume every month. Don’t only focus on your own area and communicate with colleagues from other domains.