The Transportation Research Board (TRB) is a division of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent adviser to the President, the Congress and federal agencies on scientific and technical questions of national importance. Dr. Thomas Wakeman of Stevens Institute of Technology was recently appointed Chair of the TRB’s Marine Group. In this role, Dr. Wakeman will coordinate all marine transportation-related research within the TRB organization with allied research in the National Academies. He was also recently appointed to a 7 member review panel for the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration’s Panama Canal Expansion Study and to a technical expert group for Federal Highway Administration’s Gateway and Corridors Concept Forum.

Dr. Thomas Wakeman“Dr. Wakeman’s experience and expertise have been vital assets to the ongoing research in maritime systems at Stevens,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “His appointment as Chair of the TRB Marine Group is a testament to the impact of his research and the esteem of his colleagues.”

Several current research projects of the Transportation Research Board focus on freight’s multimodal movement within the United States and thus align with the national drive to increase exports. The White House has proposed the National Export Initiative as an ambitious plan to double US exports by 2014, improving America’s economic future and generating up to two million jobs at home.

Dr. Wakeman believes that a smart maritime transportation strategy is crucial to getting American goods to overseas markets at a competitive price. However he and other maritime leaders at TRB have learned that a broader perspective connecting sea transportation with other modes of transport is necessary to catapult America’s ability to export cost-effectively while maintaining our import supply chains.

The importance of connecting ships with trains and trucks is something Dr. Wakeman learned on the job in Iraq.

Dr. Wakeman’s career started in the US Army Corps of Engineers, where his specialty was navigation infrastructure—dredging channels and ports to allow safe passage for more or bigger ships. He brought this perspective to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, spending nearly fifteen years improving the region’s busy port facilities.

This culminated in his being asked to go to Iraq in 2004 and reopen that country’s ports to accept $14 billion of cargo needed to supply troops and rebuild factories and power plants. In Iraq, improved ports are worthless unless there is also infrastructure on land to allow movement of cargo to where it ultimately needs to go.

“It wasn’t damage from the war that had to be repaired,” Dr. Wakeman says. “It was that there had to be a reliable intermodal connections established between the different modes for moving freight from the southern ports to the northern cities.”

Since his experience in Iraq, Dr. Wakeman has been focused on making transportation infrastructure improvements using designs that take into consideration interaction between different modal networks. He finds that it is a lesson that applies just as much to the United States as it does to Iraq.

It is also a lesson that he brings to the classroom at Stevens, where Dr. Wakeman is Deputy Director of the Center for Maritime Systems and a Research Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering. He uses his experience aligning complex systems to unite the University’s many disciplines conducting research related to transportation, systems, and security in the maritime domain.

“It is critical that we bring together people from different maritime disciplines to create essential synergistic solutions to problems in finance, security, the environment, transportation infrastructure, and technology,” he says. “Students working in these fields have a wonderful opportunity to play a key role in the development of the United States and world economy in the future.”

Learn more about maritime research at Stevens by visiting the Center for Maritime Systems or reading the Maritime Systems issue of Nexus, the School of Science and Engineering Research Magazine. Start your own maritime journey at Stevens by visiting the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering, or visit Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admissions to apply.