InTrans / May 28, 2020

InTrans doctoral candidate earns Fulbright award

Brianna Lawton

Institute for Transportation (InTrans) doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant Brianna Lawton flipped the script on an old adage. She’s thinking locally and acting globally.

It turns out to be just the right kind of approach that led Lawton to be selected for a Fulbright U.S. Student award for the 2020–2021 academic year. She will conduct transportation research in Ghana as part of the award.

“This Fulbright award is very important to me because it will serve as a catalyst for me to bring global communities together, build cross-continental networks, broaden the scope of transportation research to a global perspective, establishing partnerships and collaborations for the future,” Lawton said.

“I truly believe that diversity, unity, and equity across disciplines is the key to solve common global issues with sustainable and innovative solutions,” added Lawton, who studies under InTrans director Shauna Hallmark.

Through her work at InTrans, Lawton has studied the impact human driving behavior and transportation infrastructure can have on rural road traffic safety. That research inspired her to explore and better understand how geographic location and culture both play roles in how to approach and analyze rural road safety from a global perspective.

“In the US, we suffer from a high rate of crash fatalities on rural roads, but I realized that other countries face similar issues, and Ghana was one of them,” Lawton said. “When I started investigating previous studies, outside of medical issues like malaria, I found that crash fatalities was and is a major cause of death in Ghana.”

Lawton said she believes the research she’ll conduct as part of the award can be a foundation to establish a framework of how transportation engineers worldwide can approach road safety studies dynamically. She hopes that framework of safety protocols can ultimately contribute to decreasing crash fatalities—ultimately saving lives and money.

“Traveling internationally takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you to learn, explore, and adapt to other cultures. I believe it is something every student should have the opportunity to do at least once in their academic career,” Lawton said.

In addition to her work at InTrans, Lawton is president of ISU’s Transportation Student Association (TSA) and graduate coordinator for its Society of Women Engineers (SWE) graduate chapter.

Lawton is so far the only current Iowa State University (ISU) student to be selected for a Fulbright award for the 2020–2021 academic year, though two recent graduates have also gotten an award through the program. Each year, about 10,000 applicants apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which selects about 2,000 students based on merit while also considering leadership, academic, and/or professional achievement.

Iowa State students and recent alumni interested in applying for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program can find more information here. The campus deadline for the next round of applications is September 14.

More information about Lawton and the program is available here and here.