NSF awards Bagley's Li CAREER grant

Xiaopeng Li

A member of the Bagley College of Engineering’s civil engineering faculty has received one of the National Science Foundation’s most competitive research grants.

Xiaopeng Li, an assistant professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, earned an NSF CAREER award, which will provide $500,000 of funding for his research and educational contributions in connected automated transportation systems.

“We are excited to learn about Dr. Li’s recent award,” interim dean Jason Keith said. “His work in transportation network analysis, traffic operation and logistics adds to one of the college’s core strength areas in transportation and vehicular systems.”

With a vision of robot-driven vehicles, Li plans to use the five-year NSF grant to establish a fundamental framework to evaluate the benefits of a purely automated system. He will also develop a transitional system to promote safety on roads that are populated by both automated and manually-driven vehicles. He sees the potential to improve the traveling experience by controlling traffic, reducing travel time, eliminating crashes and reducing fuel emissions.

“This is a really promising direction,” Li said. “I think automated vehicles will be as big for the automobile industry as smartphones were for mobile devices.”

In addition to research, Li will use a portion of the grant to establish a virtual traffic laboratory with a realistic simulator for an interactive learning experience. The simulator will record data to give students a chance to observe their own driving behavior. He also hopes to use his computer engineering background to create portable software that can be used on a desktop computer.

“Textbooks are great, but there is room for us to add new education methods and materials,” Li said. “The virtual traffic laboratory and simulator are going to be a lot more exciting than teaching formulas and showing pictures.”

Li said that since joining the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State in January 2012, he has received support from across the university, including encouragement for cross-disciplinary research and the ability to build a national network of colleagues who provided resources for this award.

“The Bagley College has a highly effective administrative system,” Li said. “If the college didn’t have the vision of bringing new faculty to the doorway of these opportunities, I wouldn’t have access to such pathways and guidance.”

Li earned a doctoral degree in civil and environmental engineering and master’s degrees in applied mathematics and civil and environmental engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

The National Science Foundation is a federal agency devoted to promoting the advancement of science and technology for the nation’s welfare. It rates the CAREER program as its most prestigious award programs for early-career faculty who integrate research and education.

For more information about the NSF, visit www.nsf.gov.

The Bagley College of Engineering is online at www.bagley.msstate.edu.

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Erin Boozer | Bagley College of Engineering

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