skip to main content

Newest faculty member receives top prize


Debra Levey Larson

Negar Mehr
Negar Mehr
The Department of Aerospace Engineering’s newest faculty member, Negar Mehr, won the 2020 Best Dissertation Award from the IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society.

Mehr’s dissertation is entitled “Smart Traffic Operation: from Human-Driven Cars to Mixed Vehicle Autonomy.” The award is given annually for the best dissertation in any ITS area that is innovative and relevant to practice. This award is established to encourage doctoral research that combines theory and practice, makes in-depth technical contributions, or is interdisciplinary in nature, having the potential to contribute to the ITSS and broaden the ITS topic areas from either the methodological or application perspectives.

Her thesis has been a key step toward understanding the potential system-level impact of autonomous cars on mobility. Her work on the mobility implications of selfish autonomy reveals that if autonomous cars are not cognizant of their system-level impact, and like human-driven cars act selfishly, their presence may even exacerbate traffic congestion. Her thesis work has had significant contributions to deep understanding of traffic networks with mixed vehicle autonomy, but also has opened many new challenges that initiate promising research directions.

Mehr joined the AE faculty as an assistant professor in August. She received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2019 from the University of California, Berkeley and completed her work as a postdoctoral scholar in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department at Stanford University. Mehr earned her BS in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, in 2013.

Her research interests are control theory, game theory, robotics, and intelligent transportation systems. Specifically, her research is devoted to developing algorithms that allow autonomous systems to become prevalent and integrated into the fabric of human life, and further once integrated, act in the favor of society. Mehr was the co-recipient of the first prize for the best student paper award at the International Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 2016. She was also the graduate winner of the 2017 Women Transportation Seminars-Orange County Chapter scholarship. Mehr was recognized as a rising star in EECS, Aeronautics & Astronautics, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.