After earning her second Wayne State degree, alumna Bayaan Odeh maps out a new road as a transportation engineer

Bayaan Odeh standing next to Tau Beta Pi's sculpture outside the College of Engineering Building
Bayaan Odeh, who is graduating from Wayne State University with a master's in civil engineering, is president of Tau Beta Pi. The organization's symbol, known as the Bent, depicts Tau Beta Pi’s principle of integrity and excellence in engineering.

Bayaan Odeh is the last in a long line of Wayne State University graduates in her family. Her father studied structural engineering and earned his master’s, while her mother received her Ph.D. in curriculum and education with a focus in mathematics. Odeh’s four older siblings each have a bachelor’s from Wayne State, with two remaining to pursue graduate degrees.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Odeh’s affinity for Wayne State began at a young age. She recalls becoming familiar with the campus by joining her mom as she met with her Ph.D. advisor.

“We’d go back and forth from the College of Education building, and I remember how huge the columns around the building looked at the time, and how walking through the campus felt, and seeing the Student Center get renovated,” she said. “My mom recommended good study spots for me when I got accepted to Wayne State ― fourth floor Kresge is a nice little nook.”

Odeh earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering in May 2023, along with a litany of academic accolades including the Robert G. Wingerter Award, the highest honor given by the College of Engineering to graduating seniors who have excelled in character, leadership and scholastic ability.

However, her educational journey had not yet reached its destination. Through the AGRADE program, Odeh completed her remaining requirements over the last year to earn a master’s, which she will receive at the May 2024 commencement ceremonies.

“My parents worked hard for their higher educations,” she said. “It’s a sweet memory to walk in the same path as theirs, and a bit nostalgic now that it’s coming to an end. WSU definitely has a special place in our family.”

When she first arrived as a Wayne State student, Odeh chose civil engineering as a major from a budding curiosity about infrastructure and design. She didn’t necessarily consider transportation engineering as a specialty initially, but each time she would drive home from class, she would immediately see the real-world applications of everything she had just learned, and her interest in the field grew. The work of transportation engineers is even more easily visible to Odeh now, albeit through a more critical eye.

“I’m very interested in improving the safety of our infrastructure in Southeast Michigan, especially since we’re very car-focused here,” she said. “There is a lot of room for improvement.”

Odeh nurtured that interest through research opportunities. Working with Assistant Professor Steven Lavrenz, she completed a project for her Honors thesis in 2023 in which she assessed and compared traffic crash data to examine potential disparities with regard to severe or fatal crashes in low-income and minority communities.

“Bayaan has proven herself to be a highly skilled and multifaceted researcher,” said Lavrenz. “Her Honors project touched on a critical issue that Detroit and many other cities around the U.S. struggle with immensely.”

Through her research, Odeh unlocked a sense of purpose that continues to inspire her.

“As someone who comes from a minority community, I found that I could potentially open a door to speak up for marginalized communities,” she said. “I hope that path of work continues to expand, whether through me or another student.”

Odeh received a scholarship in March 2024 from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan.

Odeh is continuing her work with Lavrenz on an Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) project with the City of Detroit. She is gathering information on the environmental effects, including air quality, of traffic volume and delay on two roadway corridors in the city, and how introducing various safety, efficiency and connectivity improvements could help reduce environmental impact.

“I was grateful to have her assistance on the ATCMTD project,” said Lavrenz. “This is part of a larger effort with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the City of Detroit to evaluate intelligent transportation systems technology in live scenarios. Her work will be key to ensuring that we can capture environmental benefits associated with mobility and safety innovations on Detroit roadways.”

Odeh has long been amazed at how Wayne State positively affects quality of life in its home city and other urban areas through applied research.

“Professors often have a strong connection to the city, so as you’re working on something, you might find yourself able to latch on to a project that directly benefits Detroit in the foreseeable future,” said Odeh. “I love how Wayne State works to uplift the Detroit community.”

Taking her dedication to public safety into the workforce, Odeh was recommended for an internship at Cincar Consulting Group (C2G) by a friend who was already working there. The company brought Odeh in to receive training in traffic signal design, safety analysis and traffic impact assessments. She found that many of the methodologies she learned in class were easily applicable to her new role. She also enjoyed the atmosphere of a smaller firm with a diverse group that includes several other women.

“I’ve felt very welcomed,” she said. “It’s a great culture, and the people there are incredible.”

With support from C2G and Lavrenz, she recently received a pair of scholarships from WTS Michigan and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan. Odeh ― who, in addition to her academic excellence, has improved her leadership skills as president of Tau Beta Pi ― noted the valuable networking opportunities that have come with these distinctions. They also came at just the right time for her: about a week apart, just as she was preparing to conclude her academic pursuits.

“Financial burdens aren’t necessarily something you want to worry about when you’re just trying to focus on your studies,” said Odeh. “I felt like I’ve put my education as my priority, so it was nice to be rewarded for that.”

Upon graduation, Odeh will prepare for an entirely new way of learning: as a working professional. She accepted a full-time position with C2G as a transportation engineer.

“She has a very bright career ahead of her,” Lavrenz said.

As she takes the next step in her career, Odeh’s quest for knowledge and drive to succeed are as strong as the day she became a Wayne State engineering student.

“The main things for me are to be patient, stay humble and be open to asking questions,” she said, “but also to learn as much as I can to become an expert in my field.”


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