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Christofa Awarded Competitive Grant from the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program

Eleni Christofa

Eleni Christofa

Dr. Eleni Christofa of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department has been awarded competitive funding by the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program (GDFP), an academic exchange supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the Institute of International Education and administered in collaboration with the Fulbright Foundation). The GDFP funding is not a fixed amount and is dependent on many factors, as described below. See Christofa’s Full Curriculum Vitae.

As Christofa explains, “My project includes visiting the Technical University of Crete [TUC] in Greece to work with international leaders in traffic control, [including] Dr. Markos Papageorgiou, who is an IEEE Life Fellow, in the summer of 2020.” GDFP fellowships match host universities with scholars and cover the expenses for project visits of between 14 and 90 days, including transportation, a daily stipend, materials allowance, and health insurance.

According to its website, “The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program is designed to help avert Greece’s brain drain and develop long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States and Canada.”

Christofa has been an active member of the transportation profession for 12 years, during which time her research has contributed to innovation and advancements in modeling and managing both the supply and demand of multimodal transportation systems.

“I use these models to assess the performance of innovative intersection designs and mode-specific infrastructure treatments as well as to develop management strategies using sustainability metrics,” explains Christofa. “In order for my models to be realistic, I seek to understand how users interact with each other and with infrastructure. My work can inform design and policy decisions on infrastructure placement and signal control to achieve more efficient and safe operations, improve air quality, and contribute towards healthier communities.”

Christofa says she uses mathematical modeling, optimization, and machine learning to pursue the fundamental components of her research and relies on field data collection and simulation (including microsimulation and driving simulation) for experiments that can be used to calibrate and validate her models and test her management strategies.

As Christofa explains about the research to be supported by her Greek Diaspora Fellowship, “My project will be beneficial to the research and educational mission of both institutions [UMass and TUC], in addition to my professional development, by fostering a research collaboration with Professor Papageorgiou’s lab at TUC and mentoring of graduate students.”

Christofa adds that her proposed research will focus on developing real-time traffic control strategies for multimodal networks, where motorized and non-motorized modes coexist and automated vehicles are considered.  “The goal is to achieve improved air quality, person mobility, and safety,” says Christofa.

Christofa observes that Professor Papageorgiou’s expertise in control and modeling of automated vehicles is critical for expanding these models and control strategies to large-scale networks, optimizing signal timings efficiently, and considering automated vehicles in the traffic stream.

 “My contributions to mentoring will focus on working with graduate students at TUC to model emissions and safety, relating [these models] to health outcomes, and to assist [the students] with communication skills for disseminating research.”

Christofa’s proposed research is one of 37 North American projects that will pair members of the Greek and Cypriot academic diaspora with higher education institutions and collaborators in Greece to work together on curriculum co-development, collaborative research, graduate and undergraduate research training, and mentoring activities in the coming months. (January 2020)