On the Road to Success

michael tormey inside train station

Michael Tormey, E’20, has used his time at Northeastern to map out a unique career path in responsible, sustainable, and economically sound transportation planning.

Along the route, he has received several recognitions. Recently, he was one of 10 students nationwide named among the New Faces in Civil Engineering 2020 by the American Society of Civil Engineers for “demonstrating an astounding focus, ambition, and dedication to helping others.” He was also honored with the 2020 Marshall Scholarship. A prestigious award given to only 46 U.S. students, it offers exceptional students an opportunity to pursue post-graduate degrees in England.

As a Marshall Scholar, Tormey plans to pursue two master’s degrees. First, he will earn a degree in transportation planning and engineering at the University of Leeds, then move on to the London School of Economics, where he will study regional and urban planning.

This unique combination of interests is nothing new to Tormey, a dual major in civil engineering and economics. “Most people think of effective transportation planning as a simple matter of efficiency—how to get people from point A to point B in the fastest or cheapest way,” says Tormey. “But a variety of experiences at Northeastern have made me realize the huge implications of transportation for society and the environment. It’s a big, complex problem that I want to spend my career solving.”

Tormey focused on urban transportation planning and management during three co-ops with urban planning agencies in the U.S., including the Boston Transportation Department. He balanced this real-world work experience with participation in three Dialogue of Civilizations―intensive, faculty-led programs where students study topics abroad for four to six weeks during the summer. Tormey studied climate-change science and policy in India, green space planning in Singapore and Indonesia, and political science and urban development in Tokyo.

“Northeastern has really given me a global perspective on transportation planning,” Tormey points out. “There are certainly matters of convenience, cost, and speed to consider, but also larger and broader societal considerations such as sustainability, climate change, and resilience. We also need to ensure that people have equal access to transportation, since that has an enormous impact on quality of life, health, and employment opportunities.”

Tormey believes he will gain an even broader perspective as a Marshall Scholar, because the UK is an established world leader in public transportation innovation, including the introduction of the steam railway, underground subways, the Chunnel and London’s global style-defining transit map.

Eventually, Tormey hopes to return to the U.S. and assume a leadership role in transportation planning, where he can help make decisions and trade-offs that benefit society as a whole. “U.S. cities rely heavily on single-car ownership, which is not equitable or sustainable,” he explains. “We need to look to other regions of the world that are implementing more socially responsible models, then apply those lessons here at home.”

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering