Photo of Aqshems Nichols

Aqshems Nichols

2022 CSCRS Student of the Year, Aqshems Nichols

CSCRS is proud to announce Aqshems Nichols, a University of California, Berkeley (UCB) civil engineering doctoral student with a focus on transportation engineering, as its 2022 Outstanding Student of the Year. Nichols was honored on Saturday, January 7, 2023, during the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Awards Banquet. (View Aqshems’ acceptance speech video. View his bio page in the awards ceremony booklet.)

Photo of Aqshems Nichols accepting his award at the CUTC banquet.

Nichols accepting his award.

CSCRS selected Nichols as its outstanding student as part of a U.S. Department of Transportation program honoring students from University Transportation Centers who have demonstrated achievements in academic performance, research, leadership, professionalism, and potential future contributions in the transportation field. Nichols’s research focuses on investigating the relationship between transportation access and the educational outcomes of community college students. During his time at UCB’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), he worked on research projects that included a study on the implications of pluralistic ignorance on safety, production of short videos, including one on the role of perception of safety, and an evaluation of active transportation safety. He was awarded the Graduate Fellowship of the FHWA’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program in 2020 and 2021.

Jill Cooper, co-director of SafeTREC, wrote highly of Nichols in her nomination letter: “All of Aqshems’ work at SafeTREC has furthered awareness of the Safe System approach. His ability to translate academic concepts into vernacular language is superlative. He is an outstanding student, researcher, and colleague.” In fall 2021, Nichols worked as a graduate student researcher, where he worked on CSCRS’s R38: Assessing how private beliefs conflict with public action on Safe Systems. 

Nichols’ page in the Student of the Year booklet.

She also reflects on their collaboration in the past, “Throughout the years I have known him, Aqshems has demonstrated an outstanding work ethic, a passion for transportation safety research, an impressive intellect, solid professionalism in working with professors, staff, agency professionals, and students, and striking creativity.”

Nichols’s dissertation focuses on investigating the relationship between transportation access and the educational outcomes of community college (CC) students. To study these topics, he uses tools such as Python and GIS for spatial data analysis, and he employs qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews and focus groups to acquire insights into the transportation barriers faced by community college students in California. The ultimate deliverable from his dissertation will be the formation of policy recommendations to be submitted to state lawmakers and other stakeholders that advise on how to best improve transportation access to CCs. He expects to complete his PhD in May 2024.