Biography

For two decades, Professor Deb Niemeier has focused on integrating models for estimating mobile source emissions with transportation modeling. Her primary focus has been on developing highly accurate, accessible processes that can be used in the public sector. This combination of basic and translational research in emissions modeling and travel behavior has resulted in new ways to identify the spatial properties of mobile source emissions, new methods for developing vehicle emissions inventories, and improved regulatory guidance, including better identification of vulnerable populations.

Prof. Niemeier was the lead author for current federal guidance for PM (particulate matter) hotspot analysis for California, whose standards generally exceed federal standards. This guidance was based on translational work in vehicle emissions modeling and transportation project development conducted as part of the six year state and federally funded program, the UC Davis Air Quality Project (AQP), which resulted more than 50 reports aimed at improving public agency transportation-air quality modeling. Led by Prof. Niemeier, new ways to better estimate mobile source emissions inventories were developed and ushered into public sector practice through the AQP. This work was seminal in developing innovative and rigorous evaluation processes for public agencies charged with assessing the air quality effects of new transportation infrastructure.

More recently, her lab’s efforts in synthesizing research on the return to background concentrations at roadside edge has resulted in a revision of current thinking about minimum acceptable distances from roadway edges for sensitive populations. This work has motivated a number of new studies around the world examining air pollutant concentrations at much greater distances than previously thought necessary.

Working with an interdisciplinary research group of graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and faculty collaborators, she has published 127 journal articles and 9 book chapters. She was recently the lead author for the Transportation Chapter of the Southwest Climate Assessment conducted as part of the 2013 National Climate Assessment. She is the major advisor for 23 Ph.D. students, a number of whom now serve as university faculty. Her teaching and research has been generously funded by the National Science Foundation, the California Air Resources Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, and the California Department of Transportation. As part of a company she formed with 3 former students, she also works with legal advocacy groups across the world on social justice issues associated with access to transportation and transportation-air quality.

She is the current and founding Director for the Sustainable Design Lab at UC Davis. She is in her second year of chairing the university budget committee. She currently serves as a member of the National Academy of Engineering Board on Energy and Environmental Systems. She is on the science advisory board for Capital Public Radio, and writes their blog on energy and the environment. She chairs the Policy and Environment Cluster of NECTAR, the Network on European Communications and Transport Activities Research. Dr. Niemeier is a member of the Transportation Research Board and has served on several National Research Council committees; her current service includes NCHRP 25-38 (Data Sources for MOVEs) and SHRP 2 C10B (Partnership to Develop an Integrated Travel Demand Model and Fine-Grained, Time-Sensitive Network) Expert Task Group. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recently completing an elected four-year member-at-large term on the AAAS engineering section nominating committee. She is a member of the UC Davis graduate faculty in the departments of Computer Science, Transportation, Technology, and Policy, Ecology, and Geography. She currently sits on the Executive Committee of the Graduate Geography Group.

Dr. Niemeier has served as chair of the UC Davis civil engineering department. She also served as the Director of the John Muir Institute and Associate Vice Chancellor in the Office of Research at UC Davis. The John Muir Institute is home to 150 faculty and staff conducting research at the interface of the environment and society. She has received a number of awards including the Aldo Leopold Leadership Award, the Chancellor’s Fellow Award, an NSF CAREER award, and UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Mentor and Faculty Advisor awards. Dr. Niemeier also recently completed a six year appointment as the Editor-in-Chief of Transportation Research, Part A, the leading international journal focused on transportation policy and practice. She was the first woman in the journal’s history to serve in this position. She has served on the Mars Corp. Sustainability Council as well as numerous other sustainability-related boards. She received her B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Texas (1982), and her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Washington (1994).

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