SafeTREC Spotlight: Aqshems Nichols

I am interested in figuring out solutions to the complex issues of transportation that face us when there are so many conflicting interests at play.
Aqshems Nichols
June 30, 2021
Welcome back to the SafeTREC Spotlight Series where we highlight a SafeTREC team member and share their stories, work and interest in transportation and safety research. In today's post, meet Aqshems Nichols, Graduate Student Researcher.

Can you share a little bit about yourself and your role at SafeTREC?

My journey began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but I spent the formative years of my upbringing in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. I moved to the Bay Area to attend graduate school and I am currently enrolled as a graduate student in transportation engineering at UC Berkeley. My current research focuses on addressing the transport mobility and accessibility challenges of community college students. At SafeTREC, I currently serve as a Graduate Student Researcher. I began working at SafeTREC as a graduate student researcher during the summer and fall of 2018, and returned  in the fall of 2020.

What sparked your interest in transportation safety research?

At a subconscious level, I think my interest in transportation safety began as a young adolescent watching comic book movies such as the trilogy of Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire. There are so many moments where Spider-Man has to save children from a collision or has to save himself from being hit by a car or a truck. Given that the superhero, who has super-strength and advanced reflexes, still has to avoid being hit by a car in order to stay alive, quietly instilled in me that traffic safety should be taken seriously. If Spider-Man has to take it seriously, I think we all have to as well.

As a young adult, I was rear-ended by another vehicle while driving and suffered a mild concussion due to hitting my head on the steering wheel. This was a very minor collision but it still hurt considerably despite me walking away without any major or sustaining injuries. I realized that more serious crashes must be considerably traumatic and that I wouldn’t want myself or anyone else to be involved in one. I think this incident planted more seeds internally to get more involved in doing traffic safety research later down the road.

What current projects are you working on at SafeTREC?

I am currently supporting the development of several short informative videos for SafeTREC with the support of the California Office of Traffic Safety. The goal of this project is to succinctly showcase current trends in traffic safety research and also highlight the work of SafeTREC. For several months, I helped in the pre-production of the videos and we are currently transitioning into the production phase. I am looking forward to sharing the finished product with the rest of the team!

What issues are you particularly interested or passionate about?

I am interested in figuring out solutions to the complex issues of transportation that face us when there are so many conflicting interests at play. Issues concerning equity have dominated public discourse in recent years and it has been on my mind considerably as well. I am particularly interested in figuring out an answer to this question: how can we minimize the impact that scarcity of resources has on decision-making while simultaneously accounting for the fact that scarcity of time (a.k.a. fear of missing out) continually grips the consciences of decision-makers and other interest groups?

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am a bit of an indoor recluse. In my free time, I like to watch family-friendly anime, play effortless video games, and listen to pop music. I also enjoy taking trips to the movie theater to watch big-budget blockbusters and critically-panned movies. Occasionally, I take long walks to Emeryville.

This Spotlight interview was conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley SafeTREC. The opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of SafeTREC.