We a very proud to present our inaugural Canadian Arab to Watch, Dr. Samah El-Shafiey El-Tantawy for her ground-breaking work in the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems. Samah was recently honoured with two international awards for her innovative PhD dissertation on making traffic lights, well, smarter — with the projected results being to reduce delays by up to 40 per cent, and travel times by up to 26 per cent. She took first place in the best PhD dissertation competition from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Intelligent Transportation Systems Society, and second place from The Institute of Operations Research and Management Sciences' George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award.
Samah grew up in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia and returned to her home country of Egypt after high school to study electrical and communications engineering at Cairo University, where she also completed a Master's in engineering mathematics. It was her husband Dr. Hossam Abdelgawad — an international award-winning engineer in his own right — who first came to the University of Toronto to pursue a PhD in ITS. Interested the research potential, Samah followed suit, working with the same supervisor, Professor Baher Abdulhai (also Egyptian), who had already been working on the idea of self-learning lights for about decade.
Samah says her background, the support and motivation she received from Prof. Abdulhai, and that experience of debilitating traffic jams in Egypt and across the Middle East were all pivotal to her interest -- "of course!"
"We want to be of benefit to Egypt and the Arab world," she says of herself, her husband and her former supervisor. They believe ITS can be utilized to improve the efficiency of the transportation networks in the short-term, while larger infrastructure expansions take root.
Currently, Samah is co-founder and director of a yet-to-be-named company to begin field testing her self-learning, co-operative traffic lights, which are designed around the principles of game theory.
And her ambitions don't end there. Samah sees potential for other ITS applications all commuting Canadians can appreciate. She wants to boost efficiency in traffic flow by shifting from "transit-signal priority" to "passenger-signal priority." She also sees great potential from greater connectivity and traveler input.
Samah lives in Toronto with her husband, five-year-old daughter Nour and one-year-old son Yusuf. We here at the Canadian Arab Institute are very proud to name her as our first-ever Person to Watch. We wish her and her family every success -- for both selfish and selfless reasons.