UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Larson Transportation Institute (LTI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Lesley Ross, associate professor of human development and family studies (HDFS) at Penn State, to chair the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine standing committee on Safe Mobility of Older Persons (ANB60), as selected by the Transportation Research Board (TRB).
A faculty affiliate of LTI and acting director of the Center for Healthy Aging from 2017-2018, Ross will serve on the TRB committee from April 15, 2018, through April 14, 2021. The Center for Healthy Aging and HDFS are a part of the College of Health and Human Development.
“My research examines interventions to maintain older adults’ cognition, health and everyday functioning, so safe and accessible transportation plays a large role. This committee is focused on maintaining mobility for older adults and provides an opportunity for policy makers, industry, consumers, practitioners and researchers to interact and share our collective insights and experiences. It is a wonderful group,” Ross said.
During her TRB appointment, Ross, who also serves as a co-convener for the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Transportation and Aging interest group, said she is most looking forward to working with people from different backgrounds, especially with people outside of academia.
“We work closely with the American Occupational Therapy Society, groups in various department of motor vehicles administrations, licensing groups and consulting groups. So, it is a nice, wide range,” said Ross, who hopes to help bridge the gap between research, industry and policy through her work with the TRB. “I do a lot of work with transportation options for older adults and TRB is one of the few options we have for trying to balance the interplay between research and policy,” Ross added. “So, I see a lot of interaction between the two groups.”
Whether working with organizations like the TRB or participating in multidisciplinary research with fellow colleagues at LTI, Ross said collaboration between the College of Health and Human Development and transportation engineering is increasingly important, specifically in relation to an aging population.
“The capacity of individuals, as well the mobility needs of individuals, changes across the lifespan. So, health and human development is able to provide that developmental perspective on the characteristics of the user; whereas the transportation scientists tend to focus on crashes, how the vehicles work, and the role traffic systems play,” Ross said. “Both groups need to work together to be able to keep in mind the user you are trying to design something for.”
Eric Donnell, professor of civil engineering at Penn State and director of LTI, is also very active with the TRB. He welcomes not only the appointment of Ross, but also more collaborations between transportation engineering and health and human development studies within the University.
“The median age of the world population is increasing rapidly, much like change in the transportation industry. Now, more than ever, we need transportation engineering and human development experts to work collaboratively to address the mobility challenges of the aging population,” Donnell said. “Based on her expertise in both transportation and health, Dr. Ross will be able to offer unique solutions to these challenges.”
Ross looks forward to doing more work with LTI and believes there are many potential opportunities for the College of Health and Human Development and the Institute.
“My work is different compared to many of my colleagues at LTI since my work is behavioral and tends to on the individual and person-level factors. So, I think I do bring a unique perspective,” Ross said. “I hope to increase my collaboration with LTI in the near future.”
The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute is Penn State’s transportation research center. Since its founding in 1968, the Larson Institute has maintained a threefold mission of research, education and service. The institute brings together top faculty, world-class facilities and enterprising students from across the University in partnership with public and private stakeholders to address critical transportation-related problems.
TRB is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which provides independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. Members of the National Academies’ technical committees serve as individuals, not as representatives of the organizations by which they are employed or of which they may be members.