Staff - Innovative Research Division
Rachael Barolsky Sack
Rachael Barolsky Sack is the chief of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Innovative Research Division and the director of the U.S. DOT Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Sack’s work focuses on innovative approaches to program design and communication strategies for sharing information on emerging technologies, best practices, and related policies.
Since joining the Volpe Center in 2002, Sack’s work has supported a variety of transportation areas including environmental streamlining for highway projects, technology transfer initiatives, highway safety countermeasures, and most recently the Inclusive Design Challenge, a prize competition seeking inclusive design solutions to both create and enable accessible automated vehicles (AVs) for people with disabilities. Sack also facilitates interagency working groups and issue-specific meetings with the goals of sharing information across agencies, reaching consensus on key issues, and agreeing to action-oriented solutions.
Sack has served as Federal Women’s Program manager for the Volpe Center and is past president of the Women’s Transportation Seminar-Boston Chapter. In 2009, she received the FHWA Administrator’s Team Award for her work on the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program and the FRA Administrator’s Team Award for her work on the development of FRA’s new Risk Reduction Program. In 2011, she received Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s EEO/Affirmative Action Award for her contributions to support women in transportation. She holds a master’s degree in energy and environmental analysis and a bachelor of arts degree in energy and environmental policy, both from Boston University.
Operations Research Analyst
Matt Cuddy is an operations research analyst in the Innovative Research Division. He specializes in designing stakeholder engagement strategies to drive the adoption of research products. Currently he is focused on enabling voluntary data exchanges to accelerate the safe rollout of automated vehicles (AVs) by developing partnerships among U.S. DOT (particularly ITS JPO’s Data Program), AV developers, and states and cities. He also leads Volpe’s support of U.S. DOT’s Technology Transfer Program.
Prior to joining Volpe, Cuddy worked in multiple aspects of transportation technology and policy. He developed university-industry research relationships at Northwestern University’s Transportation Center. He developed land-use/transportation policy for the State of New Jersey at Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Policy Research. He also developed hybrid vehicle drivetrain technology in partnership with GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He has a PhD in urban planning and policy development from Rutgers University, an MS in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and a BS in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Cornell University.
Nate Deshmukh Towery
Technology Policy Analyst
Nate Deshmukh Towery is a technology policy analyst at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center. He works to boost early-stage transportation technologies out of the lab and into the field, and he develops policy approaches to improve the safety of automated vehicles as they navigate road construction zones alongside human drivers.
Deshmukh Towery currently supports FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program, which funds longer-term, higher-risk research projects that could lead to transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States. He also leads a project on work zone data for the ITS-JPO Data Program, which aims to make travel on public roads safer and more efficient through ubiquitous access to data on work zone activity.
Deshmukh Towery has worked on a variety of projects during his tenure at Volpe. He has supported research on automated vehicle policy development, on the environmental implications of connected vehicles, and on addressing the shortage of commercial airline pilots.
Prior to joining Volpe, Deshmukh Towery worked as an analyst at the Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., a federally funded research and development center supporting the Executive Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). He has a PhD in history, anthropology, science, technology, and society (with a focus on organizations, expertise, and change) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BA in history of science from Harvard College.
Pathways Policy Analyst
Ben Hunter is currently a Pathways Policy Analyst in the Innovative Research Division at the U.S DOT Volpe Center. He currently supports FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program, which funds longer-term, higher-risk research projects that could lead to transformational changes and revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States. Additionally, Hunter supports the SMART Grants Program rollout, among other U.S. DOT initiatives.
Prior to joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, he received his BA in English from Siena College (Loudonville, NY) and interned with the United States Senate. Currently, Hunter is working towards a master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Policy at Rockefeller College at the University at Albany (Albany, NY) and will graduate in May of 2023.
Policy Analyst Student Trainee
Jenn Little is a policy analyst student trainee in the Innovative Research Division. Little supports several programs, including FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program and DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. She also contributes to a variety of communications projects in support of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R).
Prior to joining Volpe, Little served in a number of federal agencies, including as a public affairs intern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as a program support trainee with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. She is currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in political science and global studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Carolina Mendez is a program analyst in the Innovative Research Division at U.S. DOT Volpe Center. Mendez joined Volpe in 2020 and since then has supported a range of project such as Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE), Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) and U.S. DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Prior to joining to the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Mendez worked at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board. Mendez holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Massachusetts Boston (Boston, MA). Mendez received a Bachelor of Science in marketing with a concertation in international business from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (Dartmouth, MA) and is graduate of Commonwealth Honor Program.
Technology Policy Analyst
Charles Mills is a technology policy analyst in the Innovative Research Division at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center. Since joining the Volpe Center, Mills’ work has supported a variety of transportation areas including facilitating data exchanges across the Department, developing planning initiatives for the National Park Service, and supporting FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program.
Prior to joining the Volpe Center, Mills was a transportation planner at the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), a metropolitan planning organization in Southeastern Massachusetts. At SRPEDD, he worked on a wide array of planning topics, which included collecting data, facilitating public meetings, developing transportation studies, and producing three-dimensional traffic simulations. Mills holds a BA in political science from the University at Buffalo and an MA in city planning from Boston University.
Mark Mockett is a general engineer in the Innovative Research Division at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center. He primarily supports ITS JPO and FHWA projects centered around connected and automated vehicles, intelligent transportation systems, and operational data. Among these projects is the Work Zone Data Exchange project, which aims to make harmonized data about work zones available throughout the country. Additionally, Mockett supports FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program, which funds higher-risk, longer-term research with the potential to transform highway and other surface transportation in the U.S.
Mockett received a BS in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a focus on transportation systems.
Patrick O’Brien is a policy analyst in the Innovative Research Division at U.S. DOT Volpe Center. He currently supports U.S. DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and FRA’s Office of Railroad Policy & Development.
Prior to joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, O’Brien worked for the Defense Contract Management Agency analyzing business systems of defense contractors to ensure compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation. His background in transportation is in policy and operations. O’Brien worked for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) analyzing transit data to increase the efficiency of transportation operations for large events and conventions. During his time at MCCA, he supervised a team of data collectors for the Seaport Shuttle Consolidation Project, which implemented a plan that cut stakeholder costs, traffic congestion, and carbon emissions.
In 2017, O’Brien completed a congressional district office transportation policy fellowship focusing on rail policy and last mile transit solutions. He is a certified acquisition professional with a level II Federal Acquisitions Certification for a Contracting Officer’s Representative and a level II Industrial/Contract Property Management certification. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Boston that focused on public policy.
Darren Shaffer is a contract specialist and serves as an acquisition planner/liaison for the Innovative Research Division. Shaffer resumed this role in 2016 after a five-year break, during which he served as a contract officer with a $10 million warrant and a Level III Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C), the Volpe Center’s government purchase card (GPC) coordinator, and a small business specialist (SBS). Between 2008 and 2011, Shaffer doubled the obligations of the SBIR Program without any increase to staff time. Prior to 2008, Shaffer served as a contract specialist within the Volpe Center’s Acquisition Division. Throughout his career, Shaffer has routinely demonstrated a willingness to push the envelope of convention and while remaining within the service ceiling of regulation.
Shaffer’s willingness has yielded multiple firsts, innovative solutions to complex problems, and operational efficiencies. Shaffer awarded DOT’s first interagency SBIR Phase III award. Shaffer’s innovative approach to the structuring of work task resulted in $60 million being set aside for small business where no set-aside had existed for the 20 years prior. Shaffer’s contributions to the Acquisition Division at Volpe include doubling the efficiency of processing modifications of contracts multiple tasks and increasing the oversight of the GPC coordinator to all of the 5,000 annual transactions with no additional staff time. Time and time again, Shaffer applies an entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary approach, which was honed at the Evergreen State College (TESC). Shaffer received both a bachelor’s degree and master of public administration from TESC.
Tammy Taylor is a contracting officer (CO) in the Innovative Research Division of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has served as a CO of U.S. DOT’s SBIR Program since June 2016. In addition to her work on SBIR, Taylor served as the Volpe Center’s Disability Employment Program Manager for a three-year term that began in June 2015. Taylor also acts in an independent role as the president of the Recreational Association of Volpe Employees. She has extensive government acquisition and leadership experience.
Prior to joining Volpe, Taylor worked as a team lead CO managing the work of up to nine contract specialists at the Department of Defense’s Hanscom Air Force Base. Before that, she spent almost 20 years at the Army’s Soldier Systems Center. While the majority of these years were in the contracting field, she also did work in the logistics and administrative operation fields. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master of science in management, both from Emmanuel College.
Technology Policy Analyst
Sam Waitt is a technology policy analyst in the Innovative Research Division at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center. He currently supports FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program, which funds longer-term, higher-risk research projects that could lead to transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States. Additionally, he supports the FHWA Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) program, among other U.S. DOT initiatives.
Prior to joining Volpe, Waitt was an infrastructure policy analyst intern with FRA at U.S. DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C. At FRA, he assisted in evaluating Infrastructure for Rebuilding America proposals and supported research determining the economic impacts of “Quiet Zones.” He has a MA in Political Science from Ball State University, which focused on public policy, and he received his BA in Education from Purdue University.
Melissa Wong has 25 years of experience designing, deploying, analyzing, and managing complex research initiative across the private and public sectors. She joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center Center in 2013. Since then, she has served as the program manager of U.S. DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. In addition to her work on SBIR, she supports the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) on many projects that involve connected and automated vehicles, cybersecurity, privacy, environmental applications, and strategic planning.
Before joining Volpe, Wong was a supervisory survey statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau. Prior to that, she was an associate at Market Metrics, a market research firm focused on the financial services sector, an analyst for New York City’s Office of Budget, and the Director of Research at The Institute for Children and Poverty.
Wong holds a bachelor of arts in History from Macalester College and a master of public administration from Columbia University, where she focused on economics and statistics.