April 2023 Graduate Student Spotlight: Ivan Xiao

Graduate Student Ivan Xiao standing on a bridge wearing a red sweater and a white baseball cap

Ivan Xiao is a Ph.D. student at UC Davis. 

Read on to learn some words of wisdom from Ivan regarding the challenges of graduate school. 

Tell us about yourself in few words?

My name is Ivan Xiao. I come from Guangzhou, China. I studied Transportation Engineering for my Bachelor's degree at Southeast University and completed my Master's degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at UC Davis. Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in CEE.

What is your research about and why is it important?

My research focuses on logistics systems, sustainable transportation, and spatial analysis, using machine learning techniques. These research areas are important for developing efficient and sustainable transportation systems, which are essential for modern societies.

Why did you choose UC Davis to pursue your degree?

I chose to pursue my degree at UC Davis because of its excellent reputation in the field of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The department has a strong focus on transportation, which aligns with my research interests. Additionally, UC Davis has a highly diverse and collaborative research community, providing ample opportunities for interdisciplinary research and networking. Overall, I felt that UC Davis would be the ideal environment for me to develop my skills and achieve my research goals.

How would you describe your graduate life journey so far?

So far, my graduate life journey has been fulfilling and rewarding. I have had the opportunity to work on challenging research projects, collaborate with other students and researchers, and attend various academic conferences and events. My advisor has been very supportive and provided valuable guidance throughout my graduate studies. In December of last year, I successfully passed my Ph.D. qualifying exam, which was a significant milestone in my graduate studies. While there have been some challenges and setbacks along the way, I feel that I have grown both personally and professionally during my time in the program.

What has been your favorite part of graduate school?

My favorite part of graduate school has been the opportunity to pursue in-depth research in a field that I am passionate about. I have enjoyed working on challenging research projects and developing new skills and techniques. Additionally, I have appreciated the supportive and collaborative environment within the department and the larger UC Davis community. The beautiful and peaceful campus has also been a great environment for me to focus on my studies, away from the distractions of the city. Overall, I have found graduate school to be a transformative and enriching experience that has prepared me well for my future career.

What do you think is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you been able to address it?

I believe that one of the greatest challenges that graduate students face is managing the high workload and academic demands while also juggling other commitments such as job searching, internships, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To address this challenge, I have developed effective time-management strategies such as prioritizing tasks, breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and using tools such as calendars and to-do lists to stay organized. I have also sought support from my advisor and peers, who have provided guidance and feedback on my research and academic progress. Additionally, I make sure to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance by exercising regularly and taking breaks when needed. While there have been times when I have felt overwhelmed, these strategies have helped me stay focused, motivated, and productive throughout my graduate studies.

What is your plan after graduation?

After graduation, my plan is to explore both academic and industry career paths. On the academic side, I plan to apply for postdoctoral positions to gain further research experience and to continue building my academic profile. On the industry side, I am interested in applying my research skills and knowledge to solve real-world problems in the transportation and logistics sectors. I plan to leverage the strong professional network and resources available through UC Davis to identify potential job opportunities and to build relationships with industry professionals. Ultimately, my goal is to pursue a career path that allows me to apply my research expertise to make a positive impact on society.

What advice do you have for current and prospective CEE graduate students?

My advice for current and prospective CEE graduate students is to focus on developing effective time management skills. Graduate school can be challenging and demanding, with multiple deadlines, coursework, and research projects competing for your attention. Learning how to prioritize tasks, break down larger projects into smaller manageable tasks, and use tools such as calendars and to-do lists can be invaluable in helping you stay organized and on track. Additionally, it is important to set aside time for self-care and to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Don't hesitate to seek support from your peers, professors, or other resources available through the university. Finally, remember to stay motivated, committed, and passionate about your research interests, as this will be the key to your success in graduate school and beyond.

What is your favorite destination for vacation?

During the pandemic, my travel options have been limited, so I have been exploring different destinations within the United States. I enjoy road trips and visiting new places, and I've been able to discover some beautiful landscapes and hidden gems across the country. However, I still miss spending time with family and friends back in China, and I hope to be able to travel internationally again soon. For now, I'm making the most of my time in the US and finding new adventures closer to home.