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Thread: Help with research topics and Study Abroad...

  1. #1
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Help with research topics and Study Abroad...

    Ok, heres the deal:

    I just completed my first semester of planning school here at UT-Austin (all A's...Yay!) and I have already started thinking about my PR (professional report) which is basically a shorter thesis that either is or is not related to a required internship. So far I have been looking at doing something with Land Use-Transportation connections, multi-modal level of service (bike, ped, car), or something similarly related to transportation, its alternatives, and the built environment.

    Well, an email was sent out by one of my professors about money available for INTERNATIONAL independant study. I would like to get maybe a couple thousand bucks and go to Germany, Holland, or Switzerland and do some research while vacationing over the summer. So, any ideas on what I could write about to convince the committee to give me money? I have never been to any of these three countries, so I don't know of specific topics that I could explore there.

    Here is what I have to show them:

    " What do you intend to do in the research project. What will you do in the actual travel portion of the research.
    Where you will go and for how long.
    Why is the travel a necessary part of your research.
    The overall importance of the project and how it will benefit your academic career (for example: contribute to your thesis research, professional report, a master design project, etc.).
    The timeline for the travel and completion of the research project.
    Detailed cost of the travel. Include both the specific amounts of funding you are requesting from the School and what you will provide yourself."

    Thanks in advance!
    Adam

  2. #2
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Holland itself is very bicycle friendly (so I hear). So maybe do some research on the country and its multimodal systems.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    Holland itself is very bicycle friendly (so I hear). So maybe do some research on the country and its multimodal systems.
    That would be very interesting for me to do, but alot of research has already been done on that, which would mean I could pretty much do the research from home.

    However, if I did want to stick with the multimodal LOS idea, I could use Amsterdam as a case study maybe. The greatest factor in improving pedestrian and bicycle LOS is lateral separation from automobiles, so since Holland has street scapes that have bike and ped areas physically separated from auto trafic, but still a part of the roadway, that might be a possibility.

    Thanks!

    Anyone else?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Well, I think you're on the right track. And even if someone has done a topic before, I think it really helps to actually go and see examples. I mean, we can read about theory all day long, but you don't really get the feel for the dynamics of an area until you go and visit it yourself. Who knows... maybe you'll find a new twist on an old viewpoint.

    Good luck either way!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    maybe you'll find a new twist on an old viewpoint.
    That was kind of my thinking: if you want to go to Holland and do research on an area that has been researched a lot already, then you need to find some aspect of it which hasn't been done to death. My impression is that, often, an area of research has lots of variations of the same basic idea but may have little in the way of research on other aspects of it or other approaches. For example, at the APA conference the point was made that there is often a lot of talk about how much money (in a transportation plan) to allocate to each mode of transportation in order to promote alternative modes but that has little actual impact. Patterns of land use are more important in determining if people can walk and bike -- ie. if housing is many miles from jobs, people aren't going to walk to work no matter how great the side walks are.

    One benefit you might be able to list is exposure to a culture that is less car-dependent. Because our country is so extremely car-oriented, Americans think a certain way and assume certain "givens" which other cultures don't assume. There is no substitute for going there and being exposed to that side of it -- to the mind-set and attitudes of people who aren't so car-dependent. It can enrich your view of transportation issues for many years to come. Reading about it just won't have the same impact. In fact, I think it would be interesting to look at that and compare the underlying assumptions that planners in a place like Holland bring to the table compared to the assumptions that American transportation plans begin with.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I did a big research paper on traffic calming during my senior year of college. I was given some funding to help with the research. My favorite information resource was Transportation Alternatives, "a 5500-member NYC-area non-profit citizens group working for better bicycling, walking and public transit, and fewer cars. We work for safer, calmer streets and car-free parks." It is a real grass roots organization that has pushed successfully for policy changes in New York City.

    Transportation Alternatives has a library in their office that boasts lots hard-to-find information, including things like pamphlets from Europe on different traffic calming techniques.

    The large city featuring the most impressive accomodation for cyclists is Copenhagen, by a wide margin. Not only is the accomodation impressive - with wide bike lanes along most major streets - but people use what is offered by cycling in large numbers for normal daily tasks.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian dankrzyz's avatar
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    They're definitely right about finding a different angle on a common topic. You'll even see the same topic done - with a different methodology, or different case studies, or just proving the original conclusion was wrong or inaccurate. That scholarship money is really a wonderful gift to be taken advantage of.

    Hook'em Horns!

    CRP'03

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    International studies huh?Oh yes... You bet I will throw the hint that you might come here... But let's be real:

    Downsides:
    -You're in the US.. I bet you don't know much Spanish do you?
    -What can you learn from here? That we're copying the US suburban style?
    -Getting here isn't as easy as going to Europe or elsewhere

    Benefits:
    -You get to know me
    -You get to know a completely diferent culture
    -You get to see how this completely diferent culture is just trying to be a clone of your culture
    -You participate in the Santiago Alefest
    -And about your interest in Transportation, Santiago is undergoing a change from the Mafia ridden (and quite possibly money laundering) bus companies to a more modern and safer system with modern and safer busses and hype that the government is trying to impose by doing licitations to diferent companies for the different routes.
    -For the US standard.. living here is cheaper...

    Oh well if you need more info just ask.. and I'll be glad to blatantly sell out my country

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mawmaw5108's avatar
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    A question: if you don't know what topic you are digging into, why do you pick these countries? It doesn't make sense to me.

    If I were you, I would broadly go through some magazines or talk to people. Find out what elements or design in such such country you are interested, then go for it.

    Visiting the project country is not necessary but I would highly recommand you to do so. You can get to know, see and feel the culture you are studying. Besides, it is a vacation!!
    Work hard, play hard.
    Listen carefully, see broadly.
    Good people, great environment, wonderful life.

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