Civil and Environmental Engineering student wins Fulbright to study rail transportation in Spain

Radhameris A. Gómez, a doctoral candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to study transportation engineering in Madrid, Spain during 2013-14. 
 
In Spain, her Fulbright sponsor is a former member of the engineering faculty at the Universidad de Castile-La Mancha as well as a former high-ranking government transportation official. Her sponsor completed his master’s in engineering at MIT, so he has a good understanding of rail transportation issues in the United States, which is her interest.
 
While learning from her Fulbright sponsor, Gómez will study Spain’s original high-speed rail line running between Madrid and Seville. Focusing on what engineers call “the human factors” issues arising from graded crossings for the high-speed line allows Gómez to integrate her background in psychology with engineering to make an examination of all the factors involved in determining whether to close crossings or to reroute them above or below the rail lines in the interest of safety. Specifically, Gómez is asking if crossings are closed, how and in what way has this affected the behavior of former crossing users.
 
Gómez intends to make contact with the Spanish representative to the European High Speed Rail Commission, the government body responsible for submitting yearly reports detailing crossing injuries, deaths and safety measures implemented. She will share what she learns with colleagues at UMass Amherst and at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, where she is currently interning. 
 
Her faculty research advisor, Don Fisher of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory, was an early and enthusiastic supporter of her intention to apply for a Fulbright. Gómez also recalls how the STEM Diversity Institute’s NEAGEP program played a significant role. She likened it to “my own personal SWAT team. Sometimes you feel safe doing what you are comfortable doing, but there are times when you need reinforcements and it’s so critical to know that you have that SWAT team; those individuals that would come and say ‘you know what, we may be able to help you here.’”