Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

Cristhian Lizarazo


Awarded the Premio Ponce de León award by Colombia’s Sociedad Colombiana de Ingenieros and the Ross Ph.D. Fellowship by Purdue’s Graduate School, Cristhian is on his way to a doctoral degree in the Purdue Lyles School of Civil Engineering.

Born and raised in beautiful Bogotá, Colombia’s ‘Big Apple’, Cristhian will never forget his beloved city; the place he hopes to return to someday and the place he first studied Civil Engineering at Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL). His hard work at UNAL allowed him to be in the dean’s list, receiving a recognition for the best GPA out of 1170 civil engineering students in 2013.

Thanks to this achievement, he was selected to participate in a university exchange program with top international universities. It was this program that first brought him to Purdue for a research experience working with Professor Andrew Tarko, Director of the Purdue University Center for Road Safety (CRS). Cristhian and three other UNAL students, who were immersed in strong Purdue research groups formed a small, but impressive cohort that inspired the creation of the Undergraduate Research Experience at Purdue-Colombia (UREP-C) – the program that has already brought more than one hundred Nacional students to Purdue.

Cristhian’s work in CRS included contributions to two important transportation safety projects: 1.) the Safety Needs Identification Package (SNIP), a safety-needs evaluation tool for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to identify area-wide safety issues, including speeding, young driver crashes, and alcohol-related crashes, and 2.) safety analysis of truck drivers at roundabouts on high-speed roads.

Due to Cristhian’s exceptional performance in Prof. Tarko’s research group, Dr. Tarko encouraged him to pursue a graduate degree under his guidance. With great interest in becoming a transportation engineer, Cristhian applied and found his way back to Purdue in the fall of 2015.  He rejoined the Center for Road Safety, but this time as a Ph.D. student.

As a graduate student, his research has been focused on surrogate measures of safety, an innovative approach to measure and analyze road safety without having to rely on actual crash data which is often insufficient in terms of numbers and details.  Successful surrogate measures would help prevent accidents and reduce the severity of those that do occur. In addition to his research, Cristhian is also the Community Service Chair for Purdue’s chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).

The two prestigious awards cited above recognize his distinguished accomplishments as a student at UNAL and provide financial support for him to pursue his dream of becoming a professor at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in transportation engineering and become a renowned researcher in transportation and road safety by helping Colombia overcome it’s transportation and road safety challenges.


Cristhian Lizarazo


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