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UC Davis PhD Student Jai Malik Explores Changes in Transportation Created by Ever-evolving Technologies

Meet UC Davis PhD student Jai Malik! Born and raised in Delhi, Jai completed his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering at Delhi Technological University. As an undergraduate, his commute to university was regularly a 2-hour trip involving walking, riding the Delhi metro and a shared auto-rickshaw. While long and convoluted commutes are not unusual by Delhi standards, Jai now enjoys a radically different daily commute in Davis—a breezy 10 minute bike ride. His commute experiences helped spark his interest in the linkages between the urban form, the way people travel, and their choice of where to live.

Jai’s interest in transport-related research was deepened further during his first job at the Energy and Resources Institute, a think tank in Delhi. During his time there, he worked on the intersection of transportation, air pollution and public policy. As Jai puts it:

“Delhi has been grappling with a serious air quality problem which led to some interesting public policies – e.g., restrictions on travel based on days of the week and the last digit of number plates. I’d say these experiences were instrumental in making me realize the need for training in conducting transportation related research.”

Jai moved to Davis in 2017 to pursue graduate studies in transportation, and in the Fall of 2020, he received a dissertation grant from the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center. His research has concentrated on changing mobility in the U.S. and other countries in response to emerging transportation technologies. In the last year, he has also focused on the change in the transportation sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His dissertation encompasses cities in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, India, China and Germany. During his time at UC Davis, he has had the opportunity to work with international organizations like the World Bank and the International Transport Forum, where he was able to apply his knowledge and skills to better understand the changing mobility in Southeast Asian countries.

Although he began his PhD with an eye towards a career in policy, over the past few years Jai has developed a newfound enthusiasm for academia. He describes the opportunities to dive deep into transportation topics and to develop his survey design and econometric analysis skills as very rewarding. He attributes his new appreciation for academia to his UC Davis mentors: Dr. Giovanni Circella, Professor Susan Handy, and Professor David Bunch. After finishing his PhD, Jai wishes to further cultivate his skills by exploring the changes in transportation brought about by ever-evolving technologies. 

Outside of work, Jai finds joy in morning running and swimming sessions. In the evenings, he likes to stroll through the Davis arboretum, downtown Davis, or the beautiful UC Davis campus. 



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