Retiring CTS Director: Field Expanding, Drawing in New Disciplines
For Laurie McGinnis, leading the University of Minnesota’s transportation research center for the past 10 years has been a dream job.
“I will dearly miss the professional and personal relationships I have built over the years,” she said in a recent interview. “I’ll miss drawing on those relationships to be the broker—connecting researchers with funders, practitioners, and policymakers to ensure effective, impactful research solutions.”
After three decades with the University’s Center for Transportation Studies (CTS), McGinnis retired on January 15. During her time as director, she helped connect researchers with funders, practitioners, and policymakers to find effective, research-based solutions for transportation issues. She also played a leading role in starting CTS programs that helped establish UMN researchers as international experts, with the most recent addition being the MnCAV Ecosystem on connected and automated vehicles.
In its effort to inform solutions to real-world issues, CTS brings together experts from disciplines as varied as civil engineering, economics, and public affairs. Leading the center to explore the cross-cutting topics that drew on so many areas of expertise—such as whether painted stop lines actually get drivers to stop, how to make electric scooters safer, and how transit affects residents’ access to jobs—was both fun and challenging, McGinnis said.
“The field keeps getting broader and drawing in more disciplines,” she said. “That’s a key reason why the University of Minnesota is so well-positioned to address today’s complex transportation needs. The breadth and depth of research talent here means there are few limits to how the U can help address these challenges.”
While she expects researchers will continue to focus on traditional transportation concerns like roadway safety and infrastructure design, McGinnis said the future of transportation research is likely to include a greater focus on issues like equity, sustainability, and automated vehicles.
Read the CTS interview for more about McGinnis’s decade as director and her thoughts on what’s coming down the road.
Applications are now being reviewed for the next permanent CTS director. Dawn Hood, CTS associate director, will serve as interim director in the meantime.