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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

URI, USDOT name Middletown resident
‘Outstanding Transportation Student of the Year’

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 14, 2003 -- Oran "Skip" Viator’s resume lists a 17-year stint as a Navy aviator and time working as a mechanical operator on a nuclear-powered submarine. But despite its apparent relevance, these experiences had no influence on the judges selecting Viator the Outstanding Transportation Student of the Year from the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center.

Instead, Viator was honored with the award from the U.S. Department of Transportation because of his research in less-traditional transportation activities -- evaluating the pollutants in storm water runoff and in the contaminants in dredged sediments off Quonset Point.

The Middletown resident was one of 33 students nationwide recognized with the award last month at ceremonies in Washington, D.C. He received a cash award of $1,000 and a certificate of achievement.

"Skip's work provides valuable contributions to our understanding of how transportation interacts with the environment. This is increasingly important as transportation professionals and the communities they serve demand not only efficient but also environmentally sustainable transport systems," said Richard Horn, director of the URI Transportation Center. "I am pleased that the award recognizes Skip's role in integrating environmental concerns into the assessment of transportation."

The Outstanding Transportation Student of the Year award recognizes one student from each of the 33 University Transportation Centers nationwide. Award winners are graduate degree candidates selected on their technical merit, research contributions, academic performance, professionalism and leadership. The University Transportation Centers were established in 1987 to advance transportation technology and expertise through education, research and technology transfer. The URI center was authorized in 1998 and is one of only six receiving the maximum funding of $2 million per year.

Viator earned his Ph.D. from URI last May, and he now is an assistant research professor in the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. As a doctoral candidate, he worked with several URI faculty members conducting transportation-related research.
"Our idea of transportation doesn’t just address cars and pavement, but also includes the linkages between transportation and the environment," said Viator. "These things are all interconnected. You have to have broad knowledge to address transportation problems. You need to know a little about geotechnical, chemical, civil and environmental engineering to solve these problems. You have to be a well-rounded engineer."

Viator’s storm water runoff research, for example, involved an understanding of all of those disciplines. Working in collaboration with URI Professors John King and James Quinn, Viator studied the storm water runoff from highway and railway drainage systems that were contaminating several urban ponds. Before, during and after a significant rainstorm, he collected and analyzed water samples and assessed where the pollutants were coming from. He’s now working with URI Professor Raymond Wright on a similar study of the contaminants in the Blackstone River.

Now that his degree is complete and he’s settled in as a URI faculty member, Viator says he’d like to stay put for a while. "I moved around a lot in my naval career, so I’d like to stay here and teach the kids and do my research. The most fun time I had in the service was when I was a flight instructor. I enjoy teaching because you get so much gratification when you see them learn something.

"I also want to do something that can be used to make life a little better," he added. "That’s what engineering is all about."

For Further Information: Richard Horn 874-9091

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