Dimitra Pyrialakou, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at West Virginia University, has been named the inaugural Maurice Wadsworth Faculty Fellow in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.
“Dr. Pyrialakou started working at WVU in August 2016 and she has been trying to secure external research funding and to develop an independent research program in the area of transportation engineering,” said Hema Siriwardane, chair of civil and environmental engineering. “The Wadsworth Faculty Fellowship would provide her with opportunities to secure external funding for her research.”
Pyrialakou has initiated research on a project that assesses the efficiency and effectiveness of West Virginia’s rural transit systems through evaluations of peer transit agencies in the state in hopes of identifying opportunities for improvement. She was also involved with a multidisciplinary research team whose goal was to provide research recommendations that can be used to enhance rural transportation options and improve quality of life for the rural elderly and other socially and transportation disadvantaged populations.
“I believe in the necessity of approaching problems from an interdisciplinary-systems view,” said Pyrialakou. “Apart from engineering methods, I focus on exploring methods more commonly used in urban studies, geography and regional sciences, consumer science and social psychology. Essential aspects of my research practices include collaborating with other faculty within and outside the Department on research projects and publications, actively fostering intellectual interaction across interdisciplinary research areas and undergraduate and graduate student mentoring.”
The three-year appointment will provide Pyrialakou with seed funding to leverage when seeking external funding opportunities, as well as funds for technological enhancements and travel.
“I am also planning on using part of the funds to continue to provide undergraduate research opportunities,” said Pyrialakou. “My goal is to expose more students to research practices and applications in the field and to recruit ambitious students into civil and environmental engineering. These types of opportunities provide students with relevant extracurricular experience and allow them to see themselves furthering their education in academia at the graduate level.
“Mr. Wadsworth has been incredibly supportive of the College and the University and I am deeply honored to have been selected,” Pyrialakou said.
A Clarksburg native, Wadsworth earned a degree in civil engineering from WVU in 1951. After a two-year stint in the Air Force, he spent his entire career at Gannett Fleming, Inc., in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Wadsworth served as a bridge design engineer, chief computer engineer for the transportation division, senior vice president for administration and president and chairman of the board. At the time of his retirement in 1996, the firm employed approximately 1,500 employees in 25 offices. Wadsworth was a professional engineer in 23 states and authored numerous papers. He was inducted into the West Virginia Academy of Civil Engineers in 2008.
“The College is grateful to Maurice Wadsworth and his wife, Jo Ann, for the establishment of this faculty fellowship in civil and environmental engineering,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the College. “Gifts of this nature allow us to recognize and retain bright young faculty like Dr. Pyrialakou, and further their research and scholarship in their respective areas of interest.”