Allanté Whitmore, PhD Student at Carnegie Mellon University
We here at Isaac’s Science Blog are pleased to be hosting our fourth interview with no one else but Allanté Whitmore! Allanté is a PhD Student at Carnegie Mellon University in the joint Civil Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy Group working on the public policy of autonomous vehicles. Allanté holds a Master’s degree in Biological Engineering and has worked as a supervisor for the McNair Scholars program in Detroit.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I am a proud Detroit native and an HBCU graduate. I also am a former Division 1 student athlete (playing volleyball at the highest collegiate level). And even though I’m working on Autonomous (AVs) now, My bachelors/masters was in biological/agricultural engineering, so I used to work on bacteria cell hardiness and biofuel production from plants
2. What inspired you to work in infrastructure?
Really coming to my current graduate school I was made aware of the opportunities in the Transportation sector and with that I jumped in with both feet and taken to it and really enjoyed the work.
3. Tell us about your professional background
I’ve been doing research since 2009 and after my master’s program I was working at McNair helping undergraduates with their time off and during my one day off I would volunteer at the University of Michigan and volunteer in a lab because I loved research so much.
4. What do you do for your PhD research?
Right now I look a lot into the policy around the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles and the planning that entails. Recently I’ve been looking into how public transportation agencies can leverage shared autonomous mobility for their operations.
6. What inspires you about your field?
I think the fact that my work in Civil/EPP allows me to apply what I’m learning and take what I can do to improve our current society even in a small way through my work.
7. Why did you pick Carnegie Mellon University?
It was for the same reason, to work on the nexus between research and application at CMU.
8. What are some fellowships you’ve received during graduate studies?
The K&L Gates Presidential Fellowship, the GEM Consortium Fellowship, and the Mobility 21 Diversity Fellow (add link), and during my Master’s degree at the University of Illionois-Urbana Champaign I got the SURGE fellowship as well as the Agricultural Health and Safety Trainee.
9. What caused you to shift from engineering to policy?
I think in my research I kept on thinking about how important the work was but how it needed to be applied.
10. New sites/podcasts you listen to?
None for educational purposes.
11. Favorite thing about working in infrastructure?
Probably working in GIS is something I really enjoy doing and create cool graphics to go with my work. The level of interests in my work is awesome because I am able to work with a much broader spectrum of individuals besides academics.
12. Least favorite things about this space or would like to see improved?
I think I’m still a little new because I’m quite new (just 2 years in) and will probably need more time before I can give meaningful criticism.
13. What should someone do to work in this space?
The great thing about transportation as a sector is that there are so many opportunities in it so I would say to go audit it for a bit to see what skills you have that you could apply (engineering, policy, marketing, etc.)
14. What are the benefits of a Ph.D. over a Masters?
It really depends on what you want to do. If you want to create new knowledge and not just work with new knowledge then the PhD is for you.
15. If you were to go back and change one thing in your career what would you do?
I would probably have taken my classes more seriously sooner. It was not until after I started my research (in undergrad) that I really began to focus.
16. What is your five-year plan?
Finish this degree and honesty I’m learning that there are so many opportunities with my work that I’m still scouting what I really want to do.
So there you have it! Allanté, it was a great pleasure to catch up with you, and we wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. We’re all excited to see how your research will have a lasting impact on how we move around. If you would like to connect with Allanté, you can find her LinkedIn right here.