Campus & Community

Dr. Thomas Wakeman Appointed Chair of Marine Group at Transportation Research Board

Dr. Thomas Wakeman of Stevens Institute of Technology was recently appointed chair of the Marine Group of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent adviser to the US President, Congress and federal agencies on scientific and technical questions of national importance. As chair of the Marine Group, he will coordinate all marine transportation-related research within the TRB organization with allied research in the National Academies.

Wakeman was also recently appointed to a seven member review panel for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Maritime Administration’s Panama Canal Expansion Study and to a technical expert group for Federal Highway Administration’s Gateway and Corridors Concept Forum.

“Dr. Wakeman’s experience and expertise have been vital assets to the ongoing research in maritime systems at Stevens,” said 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 TRB focus on freight’s multimodal movement within the US 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.

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 the 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 Wakeman learned on the job in Iraq.

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 15 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,” Wakeman sajd. “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, 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 US as it does to Iraq.

It is also a lesson that he brings to the classroom at Stevens, where 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,” Wakeman said. “Students working in these fields have a wonderful opportunity to play a key role in the development of the US and world economy in the future.”

Learn more about maritime research and education at Stevens by visiting the Center for Maritime Systems or the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering.