Like many of us, Jiwon played with LEGO as a child. But she didn't expect her childhood passion for toy blocks would lead to her becoming an expert in transport engineering.
“I developed my interest in engineering and civil engineering when I was very young and playing with LEGO,” she says.
“I liked building things. I wanted to study and have a career in building cities. So, I studied civil engineering at Korea University in South Korea.”
After graduating, Jiwon joined a construction company, where she worked on large-scale urban development projects.
“I became very interested in the transportation engineering aspect of that work because one of the projects was about building intelligent transportation systems in the city,” she says.
“I had the opportunity to look into new technology helping people's movement and also transportation systems in cities.”
What the future holds for Jiwon and engineering
Having found her passion for transport systems, Jiwon says she decided to enrol in a PhD in transportation engineering in the United States. Today, she works at UQ researching and teaching transport engineering.
“I'm working closely with transport agencies in the Brisbane area and across Queensland," she says.
"I'm also working with the government and transportation industry partners to help with real-time traffic operations and traffic planning.”
The next big trend in engineering? According to Jiwon, the future of transport engineering is digital transformation and data analysis.
“Digital transformation is happening in the way we build. The way we operate our cities is transforming from paper to digital data, and from manual processes to automated processes,” she says.
“To prepare for this digital transformation, it’s important to have digital literacy – the ability to work with digital data and use software to analyse that data.”
To help her students tackle digital transformation, Jiwon says that she designs her curriculum so that they learn the practical skills needed to work with data.
“I use real-world datasets to help students understand how they can use digital tools and computing skills. That way they can visualise that data to better communicate with others,” she says.
While having technical know-how is important, Jiwon says engineers of the future also need to be able to work with people from other disciplines.
“We need to have the core knowledge and skills specifically to know how people move around our cities – in this case, using large-scale data generated from human movement, which is captured by sensors such as GPS and public transport smart cards,” she says.
“Engineers need to be able to work with people from other disciplines. In my course, I want to teach my students the ability to work with others and embrace diversity.”