Civil engineering graduate student receives transportation fellowship


By Tim Schley

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rebeka Yocum, a Penn State civil engineering doctoral candidate, was recently awarded a fellowship in the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP) by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.

“Receiving this fellowship reminds me of the opportunity I have to make an impact in the field of transportation engineering,” Yocum said. “It is more than just counting cars and building highways. Transportation is a means of ensuring individuals and communities have equal access to the opportunities necessary to live a full life.”

The DDETFP was established to advance the U.S. transportation workforce by attracting and retaining top talent and encouraging the pursuit of advanced degrees. Since 1983, the fellowship program has awarded more than $50 million to graduate students in transportation-related fields, according to the program website.

“This fellowship is provided to the top graduate students in transportation engineering in the country and is a huge honor to receive,” said Vikash Gayah, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Yocum’s adviser. “We look forward to Rebeka’s future achievements in the field.”

Yocum arrived at Penn State in 2018 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics with minors in mathematics, communication studies and civic and professional leadership from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. As a member of Gayah’s Urban Transportation Systems Group, she is pursuing a doctoral degree to examine how marginalized groups are impacted by transportation.

“This mish-mash of degrees gives me a unique approach to transportation engineering,” Yocum said. “My primary interest lies in how individuals are impacted and not just vehicles. I believe effective transportation has the ability to foster equity between and within communities and consider myself privileged to have the opportunity to study the ways in which this occurs.”

Yocum will receive an estimated amount of $5,000, including a one-time expenditure of up to $145 to participate virtually in the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in January 2021.


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Megan Lakatos

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Rebeka Yocum, a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State. IMAGE: REBEKA YOCUM