College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Nazik Çıtır: Paving paths of innovation and inspiration in transportation

Nazik Çıtır
Nazik Çıtır

Nazik Çıtır, doctoral candidate in civil engineering with the Institute for Transportation, has pretty much always been an engineer in the making. As a child, Çıtır always seemed to be problem-solving with one big goal in mind: helping the world be a better place for all.

And to Çıtır, her studies in transportation have taken her down technical and personal roads in engineering.

Not only is Çıtır driving projects making road travel safer and more efficient, but she is expanding her impact in engineering by building up and empowering women as an ambassador and past president of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers.

Empowering women in engineering

Çıtır just recently received the Guiding Star award from the Society of Women Engineers, an award given to women who have been involved in the society for two years or more and did an outstanding job with their team.

When Çıtır started her academic career, she immediately noticed how isolating it can be as one of the only women in a room. That very moment led her to years upon years full of inspiring and empowering women just like her.

“When you start your bachelor’s degree, you really begin to understand that you are in the minority,” Çıtır said. “Since that moment, I knew I wanted to be a part of the SWE program throughout my career, and it started before completing my education.”

Now, as Çıtır has just closed out her last semester as a student, she is looking forward to decades of inspiring women through societies in the workforce.

“Nothing brings me greater joy than empowering young ladies and watching them achieve their full potential,” Çıtır said. “It is truly gratifying to see empowered and successful women all around me.”

Giving engineers the right tools to predict pavement performance

Throughout her research, Çıtır has developed computational models to predict current and future pavement performance so engineers working with pavement can make better decisions based on the results.

“The tools can allow engineers to see when the pavement is going to fail,” Çıtır said. “Transportation agencies regularly collect data on pavement condition; however, current condition measurements do not provide a time element that tells how pavement performance may change over time. Each pavement design has a specific service life, which can be influenced by various factors such as traffic volume or environmental factors. These tools are capable of analyzing this data to accurately estimate the remaining service life of roads and  when to do the next maintenance on the pavement.”

By having access to these tools, engineers can better understand the functional performance and structural capacities of pavement so they can take action before the pavement is damaged.

As engineers inspect the pavement, they can input characteristics about it, and the tool will take that data and predict the pavement’s current and future performance. As of now, county engineers can access the model using Excel, where AI-based models are embedded, a platform widely used by engineers around the nation.

Çıtır has developed these tools on two separate projects with the Department of Transportation. In the future, Çıtır is excited to further bring her ideas regarding the implementation of emerging technologies for pavement performance prediction into being, revolutionizing the way transportation agencies maintain and repair roads.