phd experience

a brief summary of my life as a gradstudent

first-year: 2016

By the end of 2015 I was about to get my Transportation Engineering professional title when I started to see myself working in academia in the near future. As I wanted to make some kind of contribution to my home town’s public transport system, I decided to enrol the PhD program in the Department of Transportation Engineering and Logistics, at PUC, Chile, under the supervision of Juan Carlos Muñoz and Sebastián Raveau.

During 2016 I worked defining my dissertation research, which ended up focused on the causes and effects of public transport reliability. In August, I also had the chance to participate in the “Modeling and Simulation of Transportation Networks” MIT short course, as well as to attend the TransitData16 conference in Boston.

second-year: 2017

By the very beginning of 2017, I submitted my candidacy document to evaluation, which I successfully defended on May 29th, one week after presenting in an international conference for the first time: TransitData17, in Santiago. In June, together with Ricardo Sánchez (MIT), Cristián Navas (MIT) and Ignacio Tiznado-Aitken (PUC) applied the CoAXs platform to Santiago de Chile and presented our results in the MOBILIZE summit. One month later, we conducted a satisfaction survey in the surroundings of four different metro stations, which was part of my dissertation and ended up being the first published article of it.

One month later I started my external research stay in TU Delft, under the supervision of Oded Cats. Besides, the time I was there coincided with the creation of the Smart PT Lab, which I am still a member of. During this year, I also participated in two additional conferences, EWGT in Budapest, Hungary, and hEART in Haifa, Israel and also dictated a Demand Modelling short course in Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México.

third-year: 2018

In January I participated in two conferences: TRB, in Washington D.C., U.S.A., and INSTR, in Sydney, Australia. Four months later I ended my external research stay in TU Delft and came back to Chile, to start the second half of my dissertation. I participated in three additional conferences: IATBR, Santa Barbara, U.S.A., CASPT/TransitData in Brisbane, Australia and PANAM in Medellín, Colombia.

By the end of this year, I was awarded the Lee Schipper’s Memorial Scholarship, which I received at the World Bank Headquarters, where I had the chance to present my dissertation

fourth-year: 2019

In addition to the presentation at the World Bank, I also presented in TRB the same week. I participated in two additional conferences this year: TransitData, in Paris, France, and in the Chilean Conference of Transport Engineering, in Santiago, Chile. In October, we conducted the second (and last) survey of my dissertation. With this milestone, I was able to start finishing my dissertation document.

Finally, during the beginning of the COVID outbreak in Chile, I successfully defended my PhD on the 23rd of April 2020.

final thoughts

During my defense, Sebastián asked me what had changed in me after four years of this PhD journey. After thinking about it for a few seconds, I gave my answer, which I believe becomes truer with each passing year. When I decided to pursue a PhD, I thought I had more answers than questions, perhaps due to my arrogance, I believed I already knew what I would discover. However, today I feel quite the opposite, as I find myself with more questions than answers. Paradoxically, this uncertainty gives me energy. To me, science means finding beauty in ignorance.

I want to thank Sebastián and Juan Carlos from the bottom of my heart for raising me up both figuratively and literally (see below). Without their continuous support and commitment, I wouldn't have come this far.