College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

CCEE graduate student receives women’s scholarship for excellence in the transportation field

Wasama Abdullah (pictured above) was selected as the 2019 Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Helene Overly graduate scholarship winner.

Wasama Abdullah, a second-year graduate student in transportation engineering, received the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Helene Overly graduate scholarship in January in recognition of her outstanding commitment to the transportation field. Her research excellence, high academic record and involvement in the industry made her stand out as a scholarship nominee.

“I was very thrilled and delighted to hear that I received the scholarship. The faith that the WTS has shown in my abilities has reinforced my determination towards meeting my goal. Their support and guidance will bring me one step closer to making our roads safer for everyone,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah completed her master’s degree at Iowa State University in June with a focus on creating real-time solutions for highway safety issues. She hopes that she can one day use her knowledge and experience to make transportation safer in her home country of Jordan in the Middle East.

“My story began at the tender age of 15 when I was asked to prepare a simple report about traffic crashes and roadway safety in the capital city of my country, Amman, Jordan. Confronting the immense number of traffic-related fatalities and injuries was appalling. The thought that I could lose someone I love has always scared me,” Abdullah said.

In Jordan, traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death. Abdullah has since worked on research in part with Iowa State  to deliver and analyze crash reports for U.S. agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau. Finding methods to increase highway safety was a strong focus for Abdullah during her time in Ames.

“Poor pavement conditions, especially wet pavement, have been identified as one of the major contributing factors in roadway departure crashes. Safety management and pavement management are still disconnected and not synchronized efficiently,” Abdullah said. “I initiated my research on pavement friction demand at different categorical levels to help in filling the gap. This would improve road safety through proper pavement engineering activities.”

As a mother, Abdullah has an end goal of reducing the number of car crashes to make the highway safer and less stressful for every working mother on the road. She always wanted to study abroad and chose to attend Iowa State for their interdisciplinary experiences within the Institute of Transportation (INTRANS) program.

“I was sure that working at such a fine institute would be a potential game changer to my skills and experience where I would meet and work with different minds from different cultures, all working on transportation studies with real-time projects,” Abdullah said. “I was confident that getting to see different conceptions of incorporating road safety into pavement management would help cultivate my research ideas.”

Abdullah recalled one of her best experiences in the program was attending the Transportation Research Board conference in Washington D.C. funded through her advisor at Iowa State back in January. “It was a dream come true and the experience cultivated my research ideas as well as introduced me to a larger group of people with similar interests. It widened my connections which did in a way replenish my future career connections and opportunities.”

While attending Iowa State, Abdullah was an active member of the Iowa State Transportation Student Association and served as co-chair of the planning committee for the WTS Iowa chapter. She said, “I enjoy being actively involved in professional organizations supporting the development of women especially in transportation as a male-dominated field.”

Abdullah will graduate in August with a Master of Science degree in transportation studies. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in transportation studies to conduct more vigorous research in transportation safety integration.

Currently, she is involved with a summer internship at the Iowa Department of Transportation where she hopes to reduce circumstances that lead to serious injuries and fatalities on Iowa’s roadways. In the future, she intends to find a career through a transportation research institute where she can improve the roadway networks in Jordan.

The WTS Helene Overly graduate scholarship has been recognizing remarkable women in transportation since 1981.