Improving the welfare and quality of life of communities was a key reason Carlos Rivera decided to study in the field of civil engineering. “I believe infrastructure plays a key role in the progress of society,” he says.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and master’s in transportation engineering at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, Rivera chose to study “with one of the most influential research groups in sustainable urban freight in the world” at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Having the opportunity to work with and learn from Professor Jose Holguín-Veras — the William Howard Hart Professor and director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment and the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems — “was the main reason I decided to attend RPI,” Rivera says.

Holguín-Veras is a global leader in the areas of freight demand modeling, transportation economics, and humanitarian logistics.

Rivera will graduate this month with a Ph.D. in transportation engineering. He also earned a master’s degree in economics while pursuing his doctorate.

While at Rensselaer, Rivera was a member of the team that won first place at the Supply Chain Data Analytics Competition hosted by the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. He was also a finalist for the 2021 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency and for the Traffic Control Device Student Challenge.

Rivera is a founding member of the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) Rensselaer chapter, and has served on its board as treasurer and vice president. “I decided to participate in WTS because during my eight years of professional experience, I have been pushing for egalitarian conditions in which no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, or religion, everyone is valued in the same way.”

He also believes in the value of support. “Graduate school can be extremely challenging on several dimensions. From my experience, I believe it is important to have a group of friends and family who understand and encourage you.”

Outside of his studies, Rivera discovered that it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and relaxation. “During my time in RPI, I became more interested in cooking, hiking, going to concerts, and a fitness lifestyle in general,” he says.

After graduation, Rivera will join the University of Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering. His advice to incoming students includes having ambitious dreams, discipline, and a routine.

“Do not compare yourself with others,” he says. “Always compare your progress with how you were before this time.”