Laurence R. Rilett, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and the inaugural holder of the Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), has been named a Fellow by the ASCE Board of Direction.
Rilett is director of both the UNL Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) and the Nebraska Transportation Center (NTC). Under his directorship, MATC was designated as the leader of the consortium for the USDOT Region VII University Transportation Center competition in 2006, 2011, and 2016. To date MATC has been awarded over $28.9 million and an equal amount of matching funds. In addition to funding research projects and their associated faculty, staff, and students, Rilett has led the development of important outreach activities, including—
1) An after-school program for middle-school students known as “Roads, Rails, and Race Cars” (RRRC), now in its ninth year. More than 12,500 students have participated since its inception. In the past two years the program has been expanded to the Umonhon Nation Public School on the Omaha Reservation, the Winnebago Public School on the Winnebago Reservation, and the Santee Community School on the Santee Sioux Reservation.
2) A week-long STEM summer academy for Native American high school students, held every year since 2017. Attendance was online during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, but will resume in-person in 2021. The academy was developed in conjunction with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
3) The “MATC Scholars Program,” which provides mentorship to help undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to navigate graduate school recruitment, admissions, and completion processes with success. The program recruits undergraduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) from around the county. To date over 130 students have participated in this program. In the fall of 2016, the program was expanded to recruit Native Americans from two-year tribal colleges to enroll in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees at four-year universities.
Rilett’s research is in the field of transportation system analysis area; his specific research focus may be divided into two main areas: Intelligent Transportation Systems applications and large-scale transportation system modeling. Rilett has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 40 research projects with total funding in excess of $45 million.
He has authored or coauthored over 90 refereed journal papers and over 90 conference papers based on his research. In 2019, ASCE awarded Rilett the Arthur M. Wellington Prize for Best Transportation-Related Paper in an ASCE Journal. Also in 2019, Rilett won the Transportation Research Board Committee on Highway Capacity and Quality of Service (AHB40) Best Paper Award.
He is currently managing editor of ASCE’s Journal of Transportation-Part A. Rilett is also the vice president of the Council of University Transportation Centers for 2020-21.