Former KAI intern Ann Xu shares personal, professional impacts of summer internship

December 17, 2012

Ann Xu’s summer internship with Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) gave her a unique perspective on the transportation engineering and planning field and, as she shares with Streetwise, helped guide her to where she is now.

Ann had completed her undergraduate degree in Beijing, China and was earning her PhD in transportation engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) when she learned about KAI’s summer internship program. She spent three months in Portland in 2008 and says the experience impacted her on several levels.

For one thing, Ann says, her KAI internship exposed her to aspects of transportation engineering and planning that she had yet to encounter in the classroom. She credits her two mentors, former KAI staff Peter Koonce and Conor Semler, for providing differing viewpoints that complemented her real-world experiences that summer.

“The two of them were from different backgrounds—Peter was more of an engineer and Conor was more of a planner—so I learned from both of them through their individual perspectives on transportation,” Ann says.

“They also shared a lot of similarities in terms of sustainability, and they taught me a lot about how to design and plan transportation systems to be sustainable. That is probably one of the most valuable experiences I had from KAI,” she adds.

Ann says the opportunity to make connections in various sectors—from private-sector shareholders to municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations, and Portland State University—also was invaluable.

“It was the breadth of opportunities that I really appreciated,” she says.

Among the projects she worked on as a KAI intern, Ann participated in a parking study for the City of Portland with a focus on safety, a pedestrian study that taught her how to collect and analyze data, and a mapping project that used GIS technology.

So where is Ann now?

Upon earning her PhD in 2010, she joined a consulting firm before taking some time off to start her family. (Her daughter, Lilian, is 16 months old.) Ann is now a research engineer for Georgia Tech, where her work involves GPS tracking to analyze pedestrian, bike, transit, and motorist use of Atlanta’s transportation system. She is also researching greenhouse gas emissions for transit agencies.

Ann fondly recalls her summer in Portland, which gave her a chance to visit the Oregon Coast and the Columbia River Gorge. She says she also liked being able to ride her bike or take buses and light rail to get around rather than having to drive.

Above all, she says, her summer internship ultimately shaped her future choices.

“It was like a paradigm shift for me and has since very positively impacted how I look at transportation and where I want to go in my career path,” she says.

Share your thoughts

comments powered by Disqus