The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Stoddard works on improving road safety during internship with U.S. Department of Transportation

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Nicole Stoddard, Political Science and Public Policy ’25, is interning this summer with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Massachusetts office through The Washington Center’s Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG). There, Stoddard serves as a Data Analyst Intern where she investigates crash data across four New England states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. In reviewing this data, Stoddard identities the biggest risk factors–weather, specific location, time of day, etc.–that led to the crashes. She, then, reports her findings back to the state offices to help them develop safety strategies that aid in crash prevention. 

Along with sharpening her skills in Microsoft Excel, Stoddard shares that the most important thing she has learned so far is that this work has a real and tangible impact. She explains, “For example, when analyzing the crash data, I found that across the four states, Tuesday was the highest crash day. When I presented my data to the state offices, they had told me that the majority of the traffic safety monitoring had been conducted on Thursdays, and that they now planned to increase the monitoring on Tuesdays! Knowing that my work as an intern is contributing toward making our roads safer and possibly reducing injuries and deaths has been extremely fulfilling.” 

In addition to investigating crash data, Stoddard is also collaborating with interns from the South Carolina and D.C. offices on a research project addressing transportation funding disparities across the U.S., which they will present at a virtual research symposium at the end of the summer. The Washington Center program has also afforded Stoddard the opportunity to attend professional development and networking sessions, including a field trip to D.C. to attend a transportation conference. 

Reflecting on this experience, Stoddard shared, “I chose to study public policy because I’m interested in learning more about how government can be used address inequities and improve the lives of all Americans. Through this internship, I’ve been given a first-hand look into how a federal agency operates and have been able to help make the U.S. a safer place!”

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