Ali Ghafelebashi awarded ITS California and California Transportation Foundation Scholarship

| October 5, 2023

Ghafelebashi is a Ph.D. student in the Optimization for Data-Driven Science Research Group.

Ali Ghafelebashi

Ph.D. student in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Ali Ghafelebashi. Image/Ali Ghafelebashi

Ph.D. student in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Ali Ghafelebashi, has been honored with the 2023 Scholarship from ITS California and California Transportation Foundation. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding graduate students working in the transportation field studying engineering, computer science, transportation planning, or public policy.

Originally from Iran, Ghafelebashi obtained his B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology. He works within the Optimization for Data-Driven Science Research Group under the supervision of Andrew and Erna Viterbi Early Career Chair Meisam Razaviyayn.

USC Viterbi News spoke with Ghafelebashi about his research, which harnesses optimization to tackle some of society’s major transportation challenges.

Tell us about your area of research.

My research is focused on applications of optimization in transportation and machine learning. In some of our transportation projects, we have developed different frameworks to reduce traffic congestion by decreasing the travel time of the network. These frameworks improve traffic by rerouting drivers via offering personalized incentives to individuals or incentivizing new mobility services. These frameworks are backed with large-scale optimization models. We provide algorithms to solve these models using distributed/edge computing to achieve better computational efficiency. The frameworks are applicable in any metropolitan area dealing with traffic congestion. Specifically, we have used real-time traffic data from Los Angeles to validate our models. As a result, frameworks have shown up to 7% reduction in traffic congestion. I have also been working on trustworthy machine learning projects through which we aim to develop platforms that guarantee the privacy of participating drivers and new mobility services.

How does it feel to receive the ITS California and California Transportation Foundation Scholarship?

I feel profoundly honored to receive the 2023 ITS California and California Transportation Foundation (CTF) Scholarship. This prestigious award is a testament to my commitment to innovation in the field of transportation. It serves as pivotal support to refine and finalize my dissertation with my last project on private traffic prediction and incentivization, allowing me to delve deeper and explore new methodologies in my research. This opportunity will not only elevate the quality of my work but will also allow me to contribute more effectively to advancements in transportation technology. I extend my sincere gratitude to ITS California and CTF for their trust and support in my vision and aspirations.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the real and practical impact of my research the most. We utilize real-time traffic data from Los Angeles to analyze how impactful our platforms are. Our numerical experiments show that our platforms can address the persistent issue of traffic congestion in Los Angeles. This is a city where so many, including myself, lose valuable time in traffic daily. Seeing the transformative power of our research in real-life scenarios is fulfilling.

Additionally, our current project excites me. It focuses on maintaining data privacy while we work with central incentivization planners. This is essential for establishing a secure transportation system that ensures the data privacy of collaborating users and new mobility services.

What first inspired you to study engineering, and what drew you to industrial and systems engineering in particular?

My journey in engineering was sparked by a desire to solve problems and provide innovative solutions that could refine processes in industry and daily life. It is the transformative potential of engineering that drew me in. Industrial and systems engineering felt like a natural fit due to its focus on optimizing complex systems. This focus allows me to make meaningful improvements and impacts. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of this field provided the ideal platform to follow my passion for transportation with computer science, particularly in the area of machine learning.

Are there any mentors who have shaped your studies and research career?

Indeed, I have been profoundly influenced by my mentors. Most notable is my Ph.D. advisor, Professor Meisam Razaviyayn. His advice and support have been pivotal. They have shaped my academic and research trajectory significantly. His insights have refined my methodologies. I also owe much to Professor Maged Dessouky, whose consistent feedback enriched my research endeavors. They provided me with a richer understanding and a nuanced perspective in our shared field. The guidance from both mentors has been a guiding light in my journey in engineering.

Published on October 5th, 2023

Last updated on October 5th, 2023

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