At 5:10 pm today, our civil and environmental engineering family, the college, and FIU lost a precious member – Professor Fang Zhao, Interim Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Deputy Director of the Lehman Center for Transportation Research. She fought a deadly form of lung cancer for the last three months. She never lost hope, nor did she ever lose her love for her work. It was only last week that she tried so hard to whisper in the ears of a colleague who was paying her a visit at the hospital, whatever she could to help him with finishing one of their research reports. That is the Fang Zhao that we all remember.
The light of life left her eyes today, but her lively eyes and her memory will never leave our minds. She devoted her entire academic career to FIU, and it is now up to us to keep her memory alive. The college will raise funds to establish Fang Zhao Endowment for Women in Engineering Leadership to celebrate her life and to cherish her accomplishments. The endowment will help fund scholarships, lectures, and professorship in her honor.
A graduate of the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture in China, she moved to the US in the mid-80’s and received her masters and doctorate degrees in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1987 and 1991, respectively. She joined FIU in 1992, and ever since devoted her time and energy to the advancement of her department in various capacities. She specialized in computer applications to civil engineering problems, particularly transportation problems. Her research covered geographic information system (GIS), engineering databases, visualization techniques, transportation planning, transit planning and operations, new transit technologies, artificial neural networks, knowledge-based expert systems, optimization techniques, data analysis, and system modeling. She was a nationally recognized expert on GIS-T, especially on temporal GIS applications in transportation. For the last three years she led the department so ably as the interim chair, not only maintaining its operations, but also significantly enhancing its enrollment, degrees awarded, and research funding, as well as obtaining ABET accreditation of its two programs- civil, and environmental.
Fang is survived by her husband – a former affiliate of the Lehman Center, a daughter and a son. Her son is majoring in computer science in our college.
The department and the college will hold a special event for the celebration of her life. More information will follow as soon as we can arrange for an appropriate time with the family and friends.
Amir Mirmiran, PhD, PE
Professor and Dean