Karen Philbrick, PH.D., Is New Director Of Research At Mineta Transportation Institute

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She replaces retiring Trixie Johnson, who was director for ten years
June 24, 2009
San José, CA

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University has hired Dr. Karen Philbrick as the director of research, transitioning the role from retiring director Trixie Johnson. Dr. Philbrick will administer all MTI research programs, which currently consists of 36 projects. She will be responsible for editing and developing research topics and ensuring that MTI research programs meet federal report guidelines. Her goals for MTI include keeping the Institute competitive in transportation research that can be applied in real-time and real-world situations.

“Karen is a California native who has traveled broadly and engaged in extensive education, clinical work and research in the most prestigious settings while completing her Ph.D. in research psychology,” stated Rod Diridon, executive director of MTI. “She has accumulated a long list of publications, testimony and keynote addresses from the international to the local levels.”

Prior to joining the MTI team, Dr. Philbrick was involved in studies investigating fatigue management planning and best practices in responding to critical incidents in the transportation industry. As part of her research, she interviewed thousands of locomotive engineers and conductors, airline pilots, maritime industry representatives, and truck drivers. In addition, Dr. Philbrick interviewed New York City firefighters directly affected by the events of 9/11. This laid the groundwork for successful completion of her dissertation, which examined a mathematical model for understanding emotional distress in emergency workers following a terrorist attack.

Dr. Philbrick earned a B.A. from California State University, Fresno, an M.A. from Columbia University, an Ed.M. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Ms. Johnson, the previous research director, began her career at MTI in 1999 after serving as vice-mayor of San Jose. She guided the Institute through 114 research projects and 21 professional events. The projects included NAFTA research, studies on local tax measures, land use, and environment, some of which became books.

“I’ve already flunked retirement,” said Ms. Johnson. “There are still so many things to do.” She plans to spend more time with her long-retired husband, Doug, grandchildren in southern California, the YMCA, and tending her garden. She also will become more involved with her non-profit and community interests.

She said, “Retiring is easier because I am so excited about my successor, Dr. Philbrick. I am confident she will move MTI research to another level, and that I am leaving the work in very good hands. I hope she enjoys this as much as I have.”


The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized in 1998. The institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations. The US DOT selected MTI as a national “Center of Excellence” following a 2002 competition.

The Institute has a Board of Trustees whose internationally-respected members represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI’s focus on policy and management resulted from a board assessment of the industry’s unmet needs and led directly to choosing the San José State University College of Business as the Institute’s home. MTI conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer focusing on transportation policy and management topics and issues.


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