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College of Engineering

Western Transportation Institute
P.O. Box 174250
Bozeman, MT 59717-4250

Physical Address:
2327 University Way #6
Bozeman, MT 59715

Tel: (406) 994-6114
Fax: (406) 994-1697
E-mail: WTI Office


Steve Albert



Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

REU in Safe and Sustainable Rural Transportation: Rural Matters


The fabric of the nation’s rural communities is woven together by its transportation network. Students at the Safe and Sustainable Rural Transportation REU site will focus on the unique challenges of rural transportation systems with special attention paid to enhancing public safety, improving environmental stewardship and increasing overall utility. Students will be involved in cutting-edge research in three broad topic areas: 1) Safety and Human Factors; 2) Sustainable Infrastructure Materials and Practices; and 3) Mobility.

The REU site is hosted by the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University (MSU), a national transportation research center conducting cutting edge interdisciplinary research in these and other areas. Located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Bozeman and its surroundings provide an excellent test-bed for researching sustainable transportation solutions in rural communities. Experienced WTI research staff and faculty will mentor a diverse group of eight undergraduate students each summer from all fields of engineering, as well as from other disciplines such as chemistry, material science, psychology, human factors, math/statistics, political science, planning, etc. In addition to their project involvement, the students’ REU experience will be enriched by research seminars, training workshops, technical field trips, and related activities over the course of the ten week program.

Program Dates

June 2 – August 8, 2014
Ten - week summer program


Montana State University
Bozeman, Montana


$5,000 (paid in three installments)


Travel reimbursement up to $900 for travel costs to MSU


Program covers all on-campus housing expenses for participants and provides a $400 meal supplement.


Undergraduates from all fields of engineering, chemistry, material science, geography, planning, psychology/human factors, and related fields are invited to apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Application Deadline

Completed applications must be received no later than February 24, 2014

Program Application

Completed applications must include:

  • A 2014 REU Application form (download here)
  • Resume
  • One page statement of interest (outlining your reasons for wanting to participate in the program, future academic and career goals, and relevant skills and experience)
  • Academic transcript
  • Two academic letters of recommendation

Application materials should be emailed (preferred) or mailed to:

Susan Gallagher
Education Program Coordinator
Western Transportation Institute
Montana State University
PO Box 174250
Bozeman, Montana 59717-4250
Phone: (406) 994-6559

2014 REU Project Descriptions

An interdisciplinary team of two undergraduate students will be selected to work together on each of the four 2014 REU projects described below. Applications should indicate your preferred project.

1) The Health Impacts of Transportation Accessibility and Land Use on Native Americans: A Montana Case Study

Native Americans have sustained a disproportionate burden of disease and mortality, partly because many of them live in isolated areas with scarce transportation service. More than 538,000 Native Americans living on reservations (and trust land) do not have paved roads to access health care facilities (IHS 2004). Although little is known about the effects of land use on Native American health status, mounting evidence from studies targeting the general population has shown that mixed and connected land use improves health status by promoting walking, bicycling, and social cohesion. Little research has been conducted to understand the relationship between transportation accessibility-land use and health status for tribal communities.

This study aims at understanding the correlation between disease prevalence and a host of built-environment factors (e.g., transportation accessibility, network connectivity, and land use mix and density). The study also develops a profile for select tribal communities in terms of their travel needs, transportation resources, land use status, and health outcomes via surveys and interviews. Results are anticipated to include a profile of travel behavior and travel demand for select Montana Indian tribes. The findings also will identify a list of potential measures to enhance mobility and accessibility, with estimated benefits in terms of health improvement for tribal nations.

Preferred Background: Academic background in planning, health and human development, geography or civil engineering. Knowledge of basic statistical analysis and survey designs. Prior experience with tribal culture is preferred.

Research Mentor: Dr. Yiyi Wang, Civil Engineering

2) Analyzing Equipped Vehicle Data for Deer Vehicle Collisions

Conflicts between vehicles and wildlife, particularly deer, continue to be a significant and challenging safety issue. Recent insurance industry sources report that while overall vehicle crash rates are decreasing, crashes involving animals, including livestock, are increasing. This is widely attributed to increasing wildlife populations and the continued sprawl of the human population. Animal-vehicle conflicts (AVC) result not only in collisions but in crashes and near-crashes initiated by driver avoidance behaviors. The actual dynamics of AVCs are poorly understood. The primary purpose of this project is to collect and analyze real-life AVC data to determine typical crash scenarios including animal behavior, human behavior and the vehicle dynamics involved. A better understanding of these pre-crash and crash scenarios will allow for better implementation of methods for mitigating the occurrence and severity of AVCs.

Data on actual crash and near misses are currently being collected by Virginia Tech. The kinematics and animal behavior for each event will be documented and evaluated. The undergraduate research will analyze and summarize forward looking video, steering and braking data. The basic aim is to understand AVCs better and determine how best they might be avoided.

Preferred Background: Academic background in civil engineering, industrial engineering/ human factors, or biology/ecology. Preferred skills: statistics and/or Matlab.

Research Mentor: Dr. Pat McGowen, Western Transportation Institute

3) Exploring Multi-scale Modification of Warm Mix Asphalt to Greatly Enhance Its Performance, Durability, and Sustainability

As the costs of petroleum-derived asphalt materials and recycling processes increase, there is an urgent need to develop new technologies to extend the service life of asphalt pavement, which can decrease the amount of waste materials and reduce maintenance efforts or recycling cost. Warm mix asphalt (WMA)—an emerging technology in the United States—has attracted the attention of the asphalt industry in recent years. WMA is a collective term that describes a range of technologies employed to reduce viscosity of asphalt mixtures and thus make it possible to place and compact asphalt mixtures at temperatures 30 to 100°F lower than that of typical hot mix asphalt (HMA). Reduced viscosity by the use of WMA technologies could bring several cost, environmental, and construction benefits.

The proposed project aims to investigate approaches to drastically enhance the performance, durability, and sustainability of WMA, through improved understanding and modification of its microstructure and chemistry at the nanometer and micron scales. This study will focus on the synergistic use of nano-sized materials with micro-sized materials. It will also test the hypothesis that some properties of asphalt (i.e., strength, permeability and processability) can be improved by adding low-cost materials or waste materials. This research will significantly advance the knowledge base needed for developing durable and sustainable infrastructure. This research will unlock the potential of nanotechnology and maximize the benefits of nano- or micro-modified "green" asphalt.

Preferred Background: Background in chemistry, civil engineering, materials science, chemical engineering, or equivalent. Preferred background includes: hands-on experience or coursework related to asphalt pavement or construction materials; knowledge or coursework related to polymers, DSC, or nano-materials; hands-on experience on asphalt sample preparation or materials property testing.

Research Mentor: Dr. Xianming Shi and Michelle Akin, Western Transportation Institute

4) Transportation Impact Fee Study

The REU project seeks to establish travel patterns (trip distances and destinations) for on campus buildings (academic and residence) as well as travel patterns and transportation mode choices for private developments adjacent to campus. The REU project results will be used as a basis for establishing a factor to be used to adjust transportation impact fees for on campus building projects as well as a separate factor for high density development in an area adjacent to campus.

REU students will be directly involved with most aspects of the study including: collecting and analyzing data on: trip lengths, destinations, transportation mode type, and frequency of trips. Locally collected data will be compared with existing, local and national, trip generation and travel data. REU students will produce reports detailing the outcomes of their literature review and data analysis and these reports will be used as the foundation of the recommendations on adjustments to City of Bozeman transportation impact fees.

Preferred Background: Background or interest in transportation planning is preferred. Skills in data analysis are beneficial. Project has relevancy to: civil/transportation engineering, planning, architecture, or statistics.

Research Mentor: Dr. Pat McGowen and Taylor Lonsdale, Western Transportation Institute