In March, Joseph Sussman, the JR East Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering Systems, became the 30th recipient of the Transportation Research Forum’s (TRF) Distinguished Researcher Award. This award recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves throughout their careers as research scholars in transportation.
For more than 40 years, Sussman has been a leader in various fields of transportation research, and has been especially effective in building long-term collaborative research/education programs with both public and private support. He is the author of "Introduction to Transportation Systems," a graduate text published in 2000 that is used at many universities in the U.S. and worldwide.
At MIT, Sussman has served as director of the Rail Group, head of the Transportation Systems Division, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, director of the Center for Transportation Studies, and interim director of the Engineering Systems Division. In all of these positions, he has been a strong supporter of systems research and a developer of research and educational programs that deal with the complex and overlapping engineering, operating, managerial, financial, and institutional issues of transportation.
Sussman has been active in professional organizations including the Transportation Research Forum, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and ITS America. In addition to serving on several TRB committees and task forces, he served a term as chair of the TRB executive committee.
His research interests have been very broad. After spending much of his early career investigating rail freight issues, he developed a strong interest in intelligent transportation systems, from the perspective of public policy and implementation. In recent years, he has led research into the transportation problems of megacities, with extensive work in Bangkok and Mexico City. He has continued this research as part of major MIT collaborative programs with Cambridge University and with various universities in Portugal. He has research ongoing on regional strategic transportation planning and on international opportunities in high-speed rail.
The first winner of the TRF Distinguished Research Award was Lewis K. Silcox in 1977. Previous winners of this prestigious award include Nobel laureate William S. Vickrey (1987), deregulation advocate Alfred E. Kahn (1984), and pioneering transportation economist John Meyer. Prior winners from MIT include William J. Harris, Alan A. Altshuler, and Carl D. Martland. Members of TRF may nominate people for this award. Recipients are selected by a committee composed of previous winners and past presidents of the TRF.