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FHWA Works: Employee Spotlight - Hoda Azari, PH.D.

Photo of Hoda Azari, PH.D.

Full Name: Hoda Azari, PH.D.
Title: Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Research Program Manager
Division/Department: Office of Infrastructure Research and Development
Location (City/State): McLean, VA

  1. What is your current position and how long have you been in this role?
    I joined FHWA in 2014, as the Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Research Program Manager, after completing my post-doctoral work in civil engineering at the University of Texas in El Paso.

  2. What is your typical workday like?
    I start the day by spending time at the NDE lab to discuss any updates or findings related to current research activities with the contracting staff and my team. There are also other projects that I manage and provide guidance for. I review technical reports and findings that are conducted from research projects in the NDE lab; review research proposals for external and internal customers; and prepare technical papers and presentation for meetings, workshops or conferences. But all that could change in a typical day if there are high priority needs that I have to address for the management.

  3. What has been your biggest accomplishment over the last year?
    One of my accomplishments was to envision and lead the development of a robotic fully non-contact acoustic system by taking advantage of micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensor array acting as microphones. The two main advantages of this system are that 1) MEMS sensors are cheaper and less sensitive to acoustic noise, and 2) It can provide acoustic data faster and more reliable. Our goal is to test and field validate the system over the next year. This work may lead to faster, less expensive ways of finding internal defects in concrete structures.

    This study also demonstrated the significance of having National Research Council (NRC) associates as part of the supporting staff. Dr. Hajin Choi who joined the NDE program as our first NRC Associate from January 2017 to March 2018 was instrumental in the successful delivery of this system. Dr. Mehdi Nikirashidi, our next NRC Associate, is continuing Dr. Choi’s effort.

    Another accomplishment of mine was a team effort; I was the recipient of the Administrator’s Excellence in Teamwork Award as part of the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 Implementation Team.

  4. Prior to working at FHWA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
    As part of my Ph.D. work, I was involved in field-testing and condition assessment of number of structures, and all unusual and interesting things can happen in field testing. Once I was tasked to assess the condition of railway ballast in a remote area in Boston during February with two other individuals. It was midnight and the condition around the test area was very bad; windy with a few feet of snow. We were not able to drive near the site and were forced to carry our equipment and walk through the snow. I was leading the way and as we were getting closer to the site I noticed a few sets of strange footprints in the snow in the same direction ahead of us. I froze for a few seconds and started praying and again started moving forward. We finally reached the testing area, but I realized that I must have left my equipment where I saw the footprints!

  5. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    I love to spend time with my two-year old twin boys, Alborz and Sahand. They keep me very busy. Other than that, I love cooking and baking, and trying new recipes. I also love photographing and capturing moments.

  6. What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned in your career to get you where you are today?
    To do your best and don’t look back. Oftentimes I am my own worst critic. I used to criticize myself if research findings or results did not go the way I have anticipated. But I have learned that even those not too perfect research results helped me to succeed and become a better researcher. Successful deployment of technologies usually takes more than one trial.

  7. Who do you admire in the transportation field and why?
    There is not a specific person, but I have always admired civil engineers and civil engineering profession. From architectural, design, and construction point of view, civil engineers have made their marks in every society from the Egyptian pyramids to the present-day Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, and Eifel tower. Yet, civil engineers have not been credited by the public for the work they have done other professions have been. Nevertheless, the civil engineering profession is striving toward making societies a better place for the future generations.

  8. Complete this sentence: "People would be surprised if they knew..."
    I have a passion for interior decorating. What I like about it is, that there are no laws written in stone for decorating. You just follow your heart, ideas, and some common sense to showcase them wherever you desire.

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  U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Careers in Motion  
Page posted on November 14, 2018
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000