Distinguished Professor and Dean
- Suite 300, Civic Square Building
- (848) 932-2714
- smart, socially-just and sustainable transportation
- automation and artificial intelligence
- using “big data” to understand complex urban problems
Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah was named Distinguished Professor of Transportation and Urban Informatics and the Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy on Oct. 1, 2018.
Her research interests are smart, socially-just and sustainable transportation. She is particularly interested in automation, AI and the use and effects of Information and Communications Technology on our jobs and in our daily lives, and the consequent effects on infrastructure and mobility services. Her work on smart cities and Urban Informatics span analytics of emerging sources of data for knowledge discovery regarding cities and improvements in planning, service delivery, livability, learning, engagement, and business, and policy innovations. In doing so, she considers issues of privacy, responsible innovation, and emerging power structures associated with data.
She has published over 170 journal papers, conference proceedings and technical reports on these topics. Books and edited works include Transportation and Information: Trends in Technology and Policy (Springer 2013), and Seeing Cities with Big Data: Research, Methods, and Applications in Urban Informatics (Springer, 2017). She is currently an Associate Editor of the Harvard Data Science Review. She serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Big Data Analytics in Transportation and Environment and Planning B. Vonu has been Principal Investigator of several significant grants in both the U.S. and Europe funded by Research Councils UK, European Commission, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Labor, and other leading state and local research sponsors. To date, she has been Principal Investigator of grants valued at approximately $25 million and has been involved in research grants of $63 million in total (as PI, Co-I or Investigator) in the U.S. and Europe.
Vonu was previously the Ch2m Chair Professor of Transport in the University of Glasgow, UK, and prior to that a Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was the founding Director and Principal Investigator of the Urban Big Data Centre funded by Research Council UK’s Economic and Social Research Council that includes a nationwide data service to inspire innovations for sustainable and socially just cities. Vonu was previously a European Commission Marie Curie Fellow and was also a Fellow of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) of the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Her postdoctoral work at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences was funded by a fellowship program of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences.
Vonu is a member of the Advisory Board of the UK Office of National Statistics Data Science Campus, as well as a member of European Commission/Eurostat’s New Techniques and Technologies for Statistics. She is a co-chair of the Urban Data Interest group of the Research Data Alliance, a joint initiative of the European Commission, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Australian Government’s Department of Innovation. She is past (and founding) co-chair of the joint subcommittee on Computational Transportation and Society of the Transportation Research Board, National Academy of Sciences, (now called Urban Big Data joint subcommittee), and is a former member of the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress Program Committee for North America.
In Chicago, Vonu was the director of the Urban Transportation Center. She was a long-time member of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Transportation Committee and the Advanced Technology Task Force. She was extensively involved in large-scale regional and metropolitan transportation planning matters, in addition to being PI of grants funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Transportation, CMAP, and other local and state agencies. She was also the lead investigator of a national evaluation of USDOT’s Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom programs.
Vonu has consulted on or otherwise collaborated on projects in Malaysia, China, India, Australia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and several European countries. She has provided testimony to the U.S. Congress and has given input to the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology as well as to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Selected recent non-university keynotes were in the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Scotland), European Commission (Luxembourg), Royal Academy of Engineering (London, UK), Leibnitz Center for Informatics (Germany), Statistics Netherlands (Heerlen, Netherlands), National Institute of Informatics (Japan), Ministry of Urban Development (Government of India), and Helsinki City Hall (Finland).