2019 HSRC Scholarship Awarded to East Carolina University Student Pursuing Occupational Therapy Degree

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The UNC Highway Safety Research Center is pleased to award the 2019 Megan Cornog Memorial Highway Safety Scholarship to Juliette Leonardo. Leonardo is pursuing a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at East Carolina University’s College of Allied Health Sciences.

“Juliette demonstrates the bright future ahead for young researchers working in an ever evolving, multidisciplinary technological world,” said Randa Radwan, HSRC’s Director. “We look forward to seeing what she can accomplish in the occupational therapy field with a focus on transportation safety.”

“I am honored to have been selected for the scholarship,” said Leonardo. “I’m eager to learn how to apply planning tools and skills to transportation issues that I’ve observed in my own experience but don’t yet know how to tackle. And I hope to do the memory of Ms. Cornog justice along the way.”

Leonardo is melding a personal interest in driving with community mobility research through an occupational therapy lens at ECU. “I have always considered myself a safe driver and have advocated for adhering to the rules of the road,” said Leonardo. “But it wasn’t until I began my education in occupational therapy that my interest in transportation safety truly began.”

The 2019 scholarship winner is participating in research that examines the effectiveness of the occupational therapy models in assessing fitness to drive in a variety of adult populations ranging from stroke to old age. She has also earned her certification for CarFit, an educational program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles fit them, as a way to extend her involvement in the field.

Leonardo’s current research study, “Using Eye Tracking Technology to Compare Hazard Detection on Road Versus Driving Simulator At Night Across Two Age Groups,” seeks to examine whether there are differences between older and younger adults in scanning for on-road hazards, and if there are differences in driving performance in real-world driving versus driving on a simulator.

“The study utilizes eye-tracking technology and driving simulation to determine where participants are looking and for how long,” Leonard said. “Specifically, I will be comparing the ability of younger and older adults to detect pedestrians on their cell phones on the side of the road during nighttime.”

Leonardo will visit HSRC in the spring of 2020 to discuss her research and areas of interest with HSRC staff. Please contact Marie Melendez, melendez@hsrc.unc.edu, if you would like to attend this free event.

The purpose of the annual Megan Cornog Memorial Highway Safety Scholarship is to foster the education and professional development of graduate students with an interest in transportation safety-related areas including, but not limited to, engineering, driver behavior, planning, public health, and environment. Candidates are evaluated based on a written essay, as well as academic performance, career goals, extracurricular and professional activities, and work experience.

The scholarship is named in memory of a former HSRC staff member, Megan Cornog, who died November 7, 2010, at her home in Carrboro, N.C., after a courageous battle with cancer. After earning her master’s degree from UNC-CH in May 2009, Megan began her career working as a project coordinator for HSRC, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle issues. Since establishing the scholarship in 2006, HSRC has awarded 10 scholarships to graduate students in the UNC system. For more information, visit www.hsrc.unc.edu/scholarship.