N.C. A&T Engineering Doctoral Student Nationally Recognized for Work in Transportation

By Alexander Saunders / 03/03/2020 College of Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (March 3, 2020) – Larkin Folsom, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, knows a thing or two about transportation. After all, he makes an hour-long commute from his home to the campus for his studies.

Folsom’s educational career trajectory encompasses many North Carolina miles beginning with an Associate of Applied Science in aviation systems technology from Wayne Community College in the eastern part of the state, then on to a B.S. in physics at UNC Greensboro before arriving to graduate school in the College of Engineering (COE).

With his undergraduate degrees in hand, Folsom sought to immerse himself in what he enjoyed most: solving transportation problems by combining physics with computational modeling. He began to appreciate the many ways his physics background could be leveraged with the competencies of CSE to provide transportation solutions after meeting Hyoshin Park, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department.  

“For example, fluid moving through a pipe and mixed-autonomy traffic, or human-driven vehicles traveling alongside autonomous vehicles, on a road can both be modeled the same way,” said Folsom. “The flow in each case is made up of particles and by knowing the capacity of the pipe or road, the problems can be formulated using similar equations.”

The particles in the traffic scenario are the vehicles occupying a road and flowing or stopping based on a variety of factors.

In 2019, Folsom received the University Transportation Center Outstanding Student of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). For 29 years, the DOT has honored students for their achievements and promise of future contributions to the transportation field. Awardees are selected based on their accomplishments in technical merit and research, academic performance, professionalism and leadership.

In addition to the recognition, Folsom was awarded $1,000 and invited to the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 2020 annual meeting.

“Attending the meeting provided incredible networking opportunities in industry and academia, which significantly expands my career prospects,” said Folsom. “My research with Dr. Park has resulted in more than 20 publications and projects, which led to this national recognition.”

Folsom’s unique perspective on transportation – aided by CSE faculty members and resources – was essential in contributing to the team’s research projects. The department offers both students and researchers a refined scope of many broad STEM applications.

While pursuing his doctorate, Folsom focuses on ways to mitigate traffic congestion in urban environments. His projects have been funded by local, state and federal government agencies including the National Science Foundation Robust Intelligence Program, DOT, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The methods and applications Folsom and Park use are helpful in solving problems outside the urban sphere as well. The research team also developed computational models of transportation on Mars, a terrain with unknown physical challenges, and investigated how to best collect samples and return the autonomous vehicle back to its home base. Additionally, they are working on a project that will help determine effective flight routes for drones collecting data in the eye of a hurricane.

Whether in the congested Triad area or the expansive reaches of space, Folsom and Park consistently demonstrate their abilities to solve problems using an interdisciplinary approach.

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

All News, College News