In this NASA Tech Briefs "Meet Our Readers" Q&A, we feature Ken Polcak, Noise Abatement Design & Analysis Team Leader for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

What kinds of work do you do with technical committees of the Transportation Research Board?

The TRB Technical committees are organized by specific topics areas — in my case, transportation-related noise & vibration — and provide a clearinghouse for research results, technical advances in the state-of-practice. They foster and identify research needs to advance the state of the art/practice. They also provide a forum for information exchange among "practitioners," such as technical specialists like me from different states and other transportation agencies. The Committees sponsor and organize conferences and workshops throughout the year to foster this "technology transfer" function.

There are a lot of ongoing projects (eight or ten of various types) that I’m involved with in some area: monitoring the technical exchanges from consultants that are in the midst of doing an analysis or may have some modeling issues. We do a fair amount of review of completed technical analysis. We also guide and coordinate a lot with our environmental planning folks that actually do the environmental documents. I very often get a phone call or two, either from another state or a consultant that’s doing research for some project somewhere, and very often I’ll even get phone calls from citizens that have questions about noise or the policy that govern noise and noise barriers.

What is the most satisfying part of the job?

Fortunately, in my overall function here with the State Highway Administration, I’ve been able to maintain a connection on a technical level. A lot of folks wind up having to evolve beyond that, or out of that technical arena when they get team leader status. In maintaining that “technical connection,” I feel I’ve been able to be contribute most effectively to the organization’s mission and goals using the expertise and experience I’ve gained over the years. That’s a rare opportunity, and I feel very fortunate and satisfied to have been able to give my best to the job.

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