Featured Faculty: Wei Li
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Dr. Wei Li is an assistant professor of Urban Planning and coordinator of the Master of Urban Planning Program at Texas A&M University who is committed to the promotion of sustainability and health through smart investments on urban infrastructure. Dr. Li has published numerous, high-impact journal articles that assess economic and health impacts of various environmental attributes, such as; green space, urban forestry, public transit, walkability, and bikeability. His research contributes insights for better investment decisions on sustainable transportation and green infrastructure.

Dr. Li has successfully obtained funding support from various agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Google Inc., and state departments of transportation. Presently, he is Principal Investigator of an NSF-funded project to explore the behavioral impact of public transit. This is the first time that planners use confidential census microdata to examine behavioral changes caused by new transportation infrastructure. Dr. Li’s team has developed innovative methods to analyze these data and evaluate the impact of public transit on individuals’ travel and firms’ locational behavior.

Dr. Li teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning and has designed and implemented several service-learning projects and made significant curriculum changes to transportation planning courses (e.g., creating online courses) at Texas A&M. In 2017, he received the Outstanding Instructor Award from the university.

Dr. Li has served as a reviewer for NSF and 20 reputable journals. He was Associate Editor for Environmental Science and Policy from 2013 to 2016. Dr. Li received his PhD-Planning, Policy and Design degree from the University of California, Irvine, MA-Planning degree from the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), and Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Renmin University of China (Beijing, China).

Here's more from Dr. Li, in his own words ...

Q: How long have you been a member of ACSP?
A: More than 10 Years

Q: Have you won any awards?

  • Outstanding Instructor Award, Texas A&M University, 2017
  • Google IoT (Internet of Things) Technology Research Award, 2016
  • Flip Your Course Award, Texas A&M University, 2013
  • Social Ecology Alumni Fellowship, University of California, Irvine, 2011
  • Martha Newkirk Excellence in Research Award, University of California, Irvine, 2010
  • Graduate Mentor Award, University of California, Irvine, 2009

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: I believe this is a revolutionary era in which the rapid advancement of technologies is profoundly transforming the socio-economic and spatial structures of our cities. As an educator and researcher, I will help planners “think big” and create new paradigms in planning by embracing transformative and disruptive opportunities. I will contribute knowledge and tools that promote sustainability and health through smart-city infrastructure. With a recently approved NIH grant, I am working (as one of the three principal investigators) with my multidisciplinary team to launch a natural-experiment research project in 2018. It will be a pre-post, case-comparison study to examine the causal impact of new Bus Rapid Transit lines and other supporting strategies on residents’ physical activity. At the same time, I am working with my talented students at A&M to explore the implications of autonomous and connected transportation technologies for urban form, public health, and community resilience

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits? 
A: Running has become part of my life. I recently completed my first half-marathon race.

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I was born in Yucheng, Henan Province, China, and lived there for 18 years. Later, throughout my studies and work, I lived in Beijing (China), Dalian (China), Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), Irvine (California, USA) and College Station (Texas, USA). I love all these cities.

If I have to name my favorite one, then my vote would go to my hometown: Yucheng. With a recorded history dated back to 21st century BC, this city played an important role in ancient Chinese civilization. There are many interesting places in Yucheng, such as the temple and final resting place of Mulan, the legendary woman warrior as featured in Disney animated films.

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. I recommend this book to all planners who are serious about inequality issues. The author outlines the evolutionary path of income and wealth inequality in Europe and the United States since the industrial revolution. He recommends state interventionism as a fundamental solution to inequality.

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