Isaiah Mwamba

A new way of ridesharing.

By Andy Gregory

Everything we do in society revolves around reliable, affordable transportation systems. Purdue University PhD engineer Isaiah Mwamba, Class of 2018, studies how we get around today in order to predict and prepare for the future.

NYUAD: What research questions are you asking?

We’re primarily focused on predicting infrastructure needs for things like self-driving cars and electric vehicles for the next generation. What kind of infrastructure will we need? What preparations do we need to make? Who’s going to finance it?

NYUAD: Why is your research important?

Well, right now most of the funding for transportation projects like roads and bridges comes from fuel taxes. What’s going to replace that when we go electric? We’ll need infrastructure like charging stations, connectivity equipment, and increased generation capacity. There are more expenditures but no revenues. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve.

NYUAD: One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to build resilient infrastructure. How does your work align with that goal?

The most obvious disparity between developed countries today and developing countries is investment in infrastructure, transportation being among them. If a country is going to have sustained economic growth, they need connectivity and transportation is at the core of it all.

Isaiah Mwamba, Class of 2018

Major: Civil Engineering

Current Role: Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellow (PhD)

Current Location: West Lafayette, IN, USA

Home Country: Zambia

NYUAD: What does this work mean to you, personally?

For me, it's about access and equity. There's always a cost to building and maintaining transportation systems, be it socially, economically, or environmental. And often, the people who benefit the least end up paying the most. As we transition to the next generation, how do we ensure everybody gets a fair share? Transportation systems should not only cater to those who can afford electric cars, but also to those that rely on buses to get around. That’s what I’m interested in: finding ways to increase shared prosperity.