Directors

Karen E. Philbrick, Ph.D.Karen E. Philbrick, PhD

Executive Director
San Jose State University
408-924-7562
karen.philbrick@sjsu.edu
Mineta Transportation Institute

Karen Philbrick serves as the executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San José State University, a position she has held since 2014. MTI leads two competitively selected multi-university consortiums: the California State University Transportation Consortium (CSUTC) which unifies the surface transportation research and workforce development efforts of the 23-campus California State University system and the Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility (MCTM). MCTM unifies and focuses the efforts of four outstanding institutions that represent and support the geographical, cultural, racial, and socioeconomic diversity that makes our nation strong: Howard University; Navajo Technical University; San José State University; and the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Prior to joining MTI, Dr. Philbrick shaped the field of transportation in a variety of roles, including as assistant director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation at the University of Denver. She has been appointed three times by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (Secretaries LaHood, Foxx, and Chao, respectively) to sit on the USDOT Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) where she chaired the FTA Administrator’s Tasking 14-02 which identified key elements of a safety management system approach to fatigue management. 

Since 2013, she has been elected to serve the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) in several roles, including President in 2018-19. Dr. Philbrick also has the privilege of serving as the President of the Research and Education Division (RED) of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), where she also sits on the ARTBA Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Dr. Phillbrick is part of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on AP080 “Transit Safety and Security” and AR010 “Intercity Passenger Rail”, where she also serves as the research subcommittee lead.

With an eye toward seamless and equitable transportation for all, Karen also serves the industry through the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). She is a Director for the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee and recently served as an appointed research advisor to the APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force. She also served on the 2019 APTA nominating committee and has partnered with the American Public Transportation Foundation on a joint APTF/MTI scholarship the past four years. 

Committed to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the transportation industry, Dr. Philbrick also serves on the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) Foundation Board as Secretary after having served two terms as a Director. Since 2016 she has been a member of the advisory board for the Los Angeles Metro Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI), and in 2018 she joined the Executive Committee for the City and County Pavement Improvement Center, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. She contributes to her community as a part of the Board of Directors for the Rotary Club of San José, and as a member of the Rotoplast committee, which offers volunteer-based free medical services. 

A frequently invited keynote speaker, Dr. Philbrick has also delivered federal congressional briefings and invited testimony to the California Senate Transportation Committee and the Assembly Transportation Committee. Her other intellectual contributions include a bimonthly column on transportation in the San Jose Spotlight, the recipient of the national Publisher of the Year award for independent online news, invited articles for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and peer-reviewed journal articles focused on models of accident risk and fatigue in railroad operations, psychological trauma and transportation accidents —including grade crossing and trespasser incidents —and cross cultural differences in helping behavior.

Dr. Philbrick has received many prestigious awards for her leadership excellence and outstanding contributions to her field. In 2015, she received the CUTC Administrative Leadership award and received a commendation on behalf of the City of San José for excellence in transportation policy leadership. In 2016, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) named Dr. Philbrick a “Woman Who Moves the Nation,” and the SJSU Urban and Regional Planning Department presented her an award for significant contributions to faculty and students. In 2017, the Silicon Valley Business Journal named Dr. Philbrick 1 of the 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley, and most recently, she was recognized by the YWCA Silicon Valley with a 2018 Tribute to Women Award for her contributions to the field of transportation.

On an international level, Dr. Philbrick has led the development of educational and training materials for intermodal specialists. Her work has formed a key portion of an international training effort and seminar, Innovations and Challenges in Intermodal Transportation, in the Philippines and Indonesia. She was a member of the US delegation to the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Transportation Working Group from 2000 to 2009. 

Dr. Philbrick holds a PhD from the University of Denver and an MA and EdM from Columbia University. She earned her undergraduate degree from California State University, Fresno.

Hilary Nixon, Ph.D.Hilary Nixon, PhD

San Jose State University
408-924-7564
hilary.nixon@sjsu.edu
Director, Research and Technology Transfer
Mineta Transportation Institute

Hilary Nixon was appointed Director of Research and Technology Transfer in 2016, after serving for nearly 10 years as a Research Associate for MTI where she was principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or research team member on 17 MTI research publications. In addition, Dr. Nixon is a Professor in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at San José State. She specializes in transportation and environmental planning and policy, and her research focuses primarily on the factors that influence pro-environmental behavior and the relationship between transportation and the environment. Her research has been published in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals. She earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy and Design from the University of California, Irvine.

Tom O'Brien, PhDTom O'Brien

Executive Director, Executive Director, Center for International Trade and Transportation, CSU Long Beach

Dr. Thomas O'Brien is the Executive Director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the Deputy Director of the METRANS Transportation Center, a partnership of CSULB and the University of Southern California. He also serves as the Director of the Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC), one of five regional workforce centers originally funded by the Federal Highway Administration. He previously served as CITT’s Director of Research. Dr. O’Brien is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) where he serves as Immediate Past President. He is Chair of the oversight committee of the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Supply Chain Automation and a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Intermodal Freight Transport Committee and Urban Freight Committee. He also serves on the Boards of the Los Angeles Transportation Club, Foreign Trade Association, Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce and National Transit Institute. Dr. O’Brien has a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Development and a Ph.D. in Policy, Planning, and Development from the University of Southern California. He is both a former Eno and Eisenhower Transportation Fellow.

Hamid Rahai, PhDHamid Rahai

Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies, College of Engineering, CSU Long Beach

Dr. Hamid Rahai is a professor in the Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering & Biomedical Engineering and the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Engineering at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). He has taught various classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, instrumentation, numerical methods, and turbulence. He has supervised over 80 M.S. theses and projects and Ph.D. dissertations and has published more than 90 technical papers. He has received more than 10 million dollars in grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation, Federal Highway Administration, California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, Port of Los Angeles, Caltrans, Boeing Company, Southern California Edison, Long Beach Airport, and Long Beach Transit, among others. He has been granted a patent for the development of a high-efficiency vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) and another patent with Via Verde Company on wind turbine apparatuses. He also has pending patents on a new conformal vortex generator tape for reducing wing-tip vortices, and one based on previous MTI-funded research for reducing NOx emissions of gas-powered engines using a humid air system. For the past 26 years, he has been a consultant to local energy and aerospace industries. Dr. Rahai is the recipient of several scholarly and creative activities awards (RSCA), including the 2012 CSULB Impact Accomplishment of the Year in RSCA Award, the 2002–2003 CSULB Distinguished Faculty RSCA Award,  the 2004 Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award, and a 2005-06 Merit of Scholarship Award by the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). In 2014, Dr. Rahai received the Outstanding Engineering Educator Award from the Orange County Engineering Council in California, and in 2019 he was inducted as a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). 

Dingxin Cheng, PhDDingxin Cheng

Director, California Pavement Preservation Center, CSU Chico

Dr. DingXin (Ding) Cheng is the O’Connell professor of the department of civil engineering at the California State University, Chico, director of the California Pavement Preservation (CP2) Center, and the director of the Tire Derived Aggregate Technology Center. He obtained his Ph.D. in the areas of pavement materials and transportation from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas in 2002. He worked in private industry for Parsons Brinckerhoff in Houston, TX before joining the Chico State University. He has extensive experiences in Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) materials and pavement preservation on both asphalt and concrete pavements, and tire derived aggregate (TDA). Ding has co-managed or managed more than $8 million research projects funded by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Metropolitan Transportation Commissions (MTC) of San Francisco Bay Area, and other agencies and industry. Dr. Cheng serves as the Chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Pavement Preservation Committee and as a member of the TRB Pavement Maintenance Committee. In the past, he served on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pavement Preservation Expert Task Group, and National Cooperative Highway Research Project (NCHRP) panels.

Aly Tawfik, PhDAly Tawfik

Director, Fresno State Transportation Institute, CSU Fresno

Aly Tawfik is the Director of the Fresno State Transportation Institute and an Assistant Professor of Transportation Systems Engineering. His research interests focus on travel behavior data, surveying, modeling and simulation of human travel behavior and transportation systems.