Finding the Right Fit
Kristina Currans is a third-year graduate student studying civil engineering at Portland State University (PSU). After receiving her undergraduate degree in civil engineering, Currans now studies travel behavior, looking into how and why people make the decision to travel to certain places using different travel methods like cars or buses. Her present research has her exploring what environmental and personal factors lead people to travel more often via car, as opposed to other methods like the transit system, when visiting restaurants in downtown Portland, Oregon.
Currans wasn’t involved in transportation right away when she started college, but she knew she wanted to do something that would challenge her to be creative and innovative, and would allow her to find new ways to solve problems. She said that her decision to study transportation came after she began to check out graduate programs.
“I realized there was this whole area of urban planning and statistical modeling to look at how people and why people are traveling,” she said. “I actually didn’t know transportation was as huge as it is, or that there was such a variation of topics within transportation.”
The PSU group Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning brings students together from many transportation disciplines. The group is for any student at the university with an interest in any aspect of transportation. Currans said these students combine their interests in transportation into fun activities like climbing the Fremont Bridge in Portland, holding an annual gingerbread transit station building competition, and hosting an annual Urban Olympics, which includes events such as a human street car race and trivia.
Currans said she is happy with the career path she is on, though when she was growing up she never expected to study transportation. She also said that graduate school has taught her a lot about being prepared for the workplace, such as how to manage her time and balance a workload.
“The most difficult thing about graduate school is managing all the interesting topics you come across in your classes and research, and deciding which ones you can look at more, and which ones you have to pass on,” she said. “It has … everything to do with the management of your time. There are so many interesting things to look at.”
Choosing a career path, going to college, then putting in the effort to succeed can take a lot of hard work. Currans stressed the importance of doing something that makes you happy, even if it takes a while to find or comes from an unlikely place. As for Currans, she found the career she was looking for during college.
“It’s worth taking that extra time to find something that fits your personality,” she said.