Melisa Finley

Melisa Finley1

Meet Melisa Finley

Melisa Finley is a Research Engineer in the Traffic Operations and Roadway Safety Division of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). She has over a decade of experience as a principal investigator or key researcher on over 35 studies relating to work zone safety and operations, traffic control measures and devices, human factors, and educational outreach. These research activities were conducted for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), California DOT, Florida DOT, Ohio DOT, the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and various University Transportation Centers (UTCs). In addition, she has conducted several research projects for several private entities, including the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). Ms. Finley has published findings in Transportation Research Board (TRB) journals and other publications such as Roads and Bridges magazine. She has made numerous presentations on her research findings at TRB meetings, Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) meetings, ATSSA meetings, and other venues. In addition to her research accomplishments, Ms. Finley teaches National Highway Institute (NHI) training on advanced work zone management and design at locations throughout the country. Her ambition and commitment to excellence have not gone unnoticed. In 2013, Ms. Finley received the TTI/Trinity Researcher Award, in 2004 she received the Texas Institute of Transportation Engineers (TexITE) Younger Member of the Year Award, and in 2001 she received the TTI/Trinity New Researcher Award.

Currently, Ms. Finley is actively involved in TRB, ITE, and ATSSA. Within TRB, she is a member of the Committee on Work Zone Traffic Control (AHB55), the chair of the Joint Subcommittee on Work Zone Positive Protection, and a past member of the Committee on Traffic Control Devices (AHB50). In January 2013, 2011, and 2006, papers authored by Ms. Finley were selected by TRB Committee AHB55 as the best paper sponsored by the committee. Within ITE, she is currently a member of the Traffic Engineering Council, a member of the Transportation Education Council, the Past President of the Texas District, and the Texas District Awards Coordinator. Within ATSSA, she is a member of the Temporary Traffic Control Committee.

Ms. Finley received her Bachelor of Science (Cum Laude) and Master of Science degrees in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University. She is a registered professional engineer in the state of Texas.

What spurred your interest in this research?

TTI had a project to assess the effectiveness of wrong way driving countermeasures. As part of this project, TTI researchers designed and conducted a nighttime closed-course study to provide insight into how alcohol-impaired drivers recognize and read signs. We seized this opportunity to collect additional data, such as vehicle lateral position and speed, and participant response to three standard field sobriety tests. So, we had a one-of-a-kind existing data source that needed to be explored.

What is your focus now?

We are looking at the “moth to the flame” theory, which hypothesizes that alcohol-impaired drivers drift toward bright lights. We are analyzing vehicle lateral position and eye-tracker data at various levels of impairment for a non-treatment segment of the course, as well as for the course segment that contained a police vehicle with its lights activated. We are also looking pupil diameter and speed data on these segments.

What is the future of your research?

Similar to the “moth to the flame” analysis, we could assess of the effect of traffic signs and alcohol-impairment on speed, pupil diameter, and lane placement. We could also look at how alcohol-impaired drivers navigated the tangent and curved sections of course.

What impact will your research have on society and what are you working toward in your research?

Overall, we hope to improve roadway safety by gaining a better understanding of how alcohol impacts a person’s ability to drive, and receive and process information from traffic control devices. We also hope to gain a better understanding of how actual driving data relates to standard field sobriety tests.

Sangyong You Photo

Meet Sangyong You, Graduate Assistant-Research

Sangyong is a Graduate Research Assistant in Work Zone & DMS Program group at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and a PhD student of Civil Engineering at the Texas A&M University. He holds a MS degree in Transportation Engineering from the University of Seoul with a specific focus on traffic data analysis. He has worked on various transportation projects including traffic safety analysis, safety enhancements for vulnerable users, and road safety for pedestrians. His primary roles at TTI have included data reduction and analysis of the alcohol-impaired closed-course driving data. When not working, Sangyong enjoys playing soccer, basketball, and baseball.

George Gillette Photo

Meet George Gillette, Undergraduate Student Worker III

George is enrolled as a sophomore in Texas A&M University’s B.S. program in Civil Engineering. He reduces data for Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) as a student worker. He has worked in applications of image processing for improved data reduction and statistical analysis for a variety of transportation projects. Outside of TTI, he pursues Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) proposals to gain real-world experience in the fields of engineering and basic business management in order to expand his educational horizons. He is both an Engineering Honors and University Honors student. Currently, he is working as a Sophomore Advisor in the University Honors program and helps freshmen in their transition to Texas A&M University. Additionally, he is a project leader in Engineers Without Borders for the Personal Energy Transport project, designed to help the disabled in third-world countries. Beyond university extra-curricular activities, he enjoys reading classic literature and poetry, competitive sports, and playing piano.


The ATLAS Center is a collaboration between the University of Michigan (U-M) Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Texas A&M Transportation Institute