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College of Engineering and Computing

USC Laying Tracks to Improve Railway Engineering Teaching and Research

Joint Rail Conference to Highlift Railway Engineering Program

As the railroad industry grows,  major railroad companies are hiring more and more recent college graduates. But not many universities offer railroad engineering courses making the search for well qualified job candidates even more challenging. At the University of South Carolina, civil engineering professor Dimitris Rizos is committing his teaching and research to railroad engineering and his efforts are pumping out an increasing number students who head to the railway industry.

“It is a thriving industry,” said Rizos. “But, the average age of workers is increasing and is approaching 60 which creates a generation gap. We identified this challenge. To fill that gap, we set a strategic goal to develop the rail initiative at USC, in order to prepare our students for the industry through education and research. We had to grow partnerships with the industry and better train our students.”

In August 2011, Rizos established the Advanced Railroad Technology Group (ART Group). The group’s goals include:

  • securing research funding through the Federal Railroad Association as well as other agencies;
  • developing comprehensive undergraduate and graduate curriculum in rail engineering;
  • increasing student interest in rail engineering;
  • facilitating partnerships with rail companies to ensure graduates secure good jobs, and;
  • increasing support of student fellowships and scholarships.

“Now, we are seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Rizos. “We have stronger relationships with funding agencies and sustainable funding on rail related research is secure. Plus, a comprehensive curriculum is now in place that is recognized among the top five premier programs in the country in terms of size and enrollment.”

Also, 18 civil engineering graduates have been hired in the rail industry in the last three years.

“Because of the progress made by the ART Group, USC is now supplying competitive graduates to the railway industry, and there is an increased awareness of the economic and environmental impact of the railroads in our community. “

The ART Group is also responsible for co-sponsoring the 2016 Joint Rail Conference, which is being held in Columbia this week. The conference attracts engineers and technical personnel from multiple disciplines, representing operators, equipment builders, component suppliers, designers, consultants, academia, regulatory agencies and research organizations. Attendees are learning about the latest developments in rail transportation.

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