A childhood love of building with Lego led Dr Jiwon Kim to a lifelong career in transport engineering. Today, she is teaching future engineers to own the unknown using real-time data.
Like many of us, Dr Kim played with Lego as a child. But she didn't expect her childhood passion for toy blocks would lead to her becoming an expert in transport engineering.
“I developed my interest in engineering and civil engineering when I was very young and playing with Lego,” Dr Kim says.
“I liked building things. I wanted to study and have a career in building cities. So, I studied civil engineering at Korea University in South Korea.”
After graduating, Dr Kim joined a construction company, where she worked on large-scale urban development projects.
“I became very interested in the transportation engineering aspect of that work because one of the projects was about building intelligent transportation systems in the city,” Dr Kim says.
“I had the opportunity to look into new technology helping people's movement, and also transportation systems in cities.”
Having found her passion for transport systems, Dr Kim says she decided to enrol in a PhD in transportation engineering in the United States. Today, she works at UQ researching and teaching transport engineering.
“I'm working closely with transport agencies in the Brisbane area and across Queensland. I'm also working with the government and transportation industry partners to help with real-time traffic operations and traffic planning,” Dr Kim says.
The next big trend in engineering? According to Dr Kim, the future of transport engineering is digital transformation and data analysis.
“Digital transformation is happening in the way we build. The way we operate our cities is transforming from paper to digital data, and from manual processes to automated processes,” Dr Kim says.
“To prepare for this digital transformation, it’s important to have digital literacy – the ability to work with digital data and use software to analyse that data.”
To help her students tackle digital transformation, Dr Kim says that she designs her curriculum so that they learn the practical skills needed to work with data.
“I use real-world datasets to help students understand how they can use digital tools and computing skills. That way they can visualise that data to better communicate with others,” she says.
While having technical know-how is important, Dr Kim says that engineers of the future also need to be able to work with people from other disciplines.
“We need to have the core knowledge and skills specifically to know how people move around our cities – in this case, using large-scale data generated from human movement, which is captured by sensors such as GPS and public transport smart cards,” she says.
“Engineers need to be able to work with people from other disciplines. In my course, I want to teach my students the ability to work with others and embrace diversity.”
Own the unknown in engineering at UQ.