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Distinguished Lecture Series
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Distinguished Lecture Series: Spring 2005

University of Virginia Center for
Transportation Studies
April 26 3:30-4:45 pm
UVA Rotunda Building, Lower West Oval Room
Achieving 10X Acceleration of
Engineering Science on Railroads in
the 21 st Century.


The foundations of the railroad industry in the United States go back to the 1830’s. Railroads rapidly grew to be the inter-state commerce network in the late 1800’s and well into the 1930’s. With the advent of the automobile, truck and a highway network to support them, railroads have seen a declining share of inter-state freight until 1995. That trend has now stabilized and it is starting to reverse into a market share success story.

Engineering Science has played a key role in reversing this trend. Engineering advances in railroading between 1990 and 2000 have matched or exceeded the advances since railroading began in the 1830’s, and in the last four years applications of advanced engineering have exceeded those of the past 10 years. This lecture will cover the major advances in railroad engineering since 1990.

Biography of Speaker

Dr. John M. Samuels was born in Trenton, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 1966 from Kettering University/GMI. As a student, he was active in student government and engineering professional societies. While on leave from General Motors in 1966, he continued his studies at Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering – Operations Research in 1968 and then joined the Penn State faculty.

Dr. Samuels served on the Penn State faculty between 1968 and 1978, while he pursued a Ph.D. in Manufacturing Research. He was appointed assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and a research associate after completing his Ph.D. in 1972. He was promoted to associate professor and senior materials research scientist three years later and received tenure status.

In 1978, he joined Conrail as a director of shop industrial engineering and rose through the ranks to serve in several vice presidential roles starting in 1990. During his tenure at Conrail, he was responsible for continuous quality improvement, engineering, mechanical operations, and operating assets. His duties included being in charge of the maintenance of tracks, signals, bridges and buildings, locomotives and railcars, as well as the staff function of engineering design and construction, train dispatching control systems, and the technical service laboratory. He joined Norfolk Southern Railroad in 1998 as vice president – operations planning and budget, and was promoted to his current position, senior vice president – operations planning and support, in 2000.

Dr. Samuels is not only a recognized leader in railway technology and infrastructure management but also has been deeply involved in preparing tomorrow’s executives for the railway industry. He has been dedicated to that task through his efforts in ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), serving as chair of ABET’s Industrial Advisory Council since 2002. Since 1998, he has chaired the North American Railway Research Committee and the North American Joint Positive Train Control Project, which is designing a next generation train control system. He was a member of the executive committee of the Transportation Research Board from 1998-2003 and chaired the committee in 2001.

He has served on the Penn State Economic Development Advisory Council, the Council of Industrial Engineering of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Quality Management and Industry Advisory Board for Railroad Research, is a senior member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the American Railway Engineering Association, and a member of several committees within the Association of American Railroads.

In October 2004, Dr. Samuels was appointed as Adjunct Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, Old Dominion University. He was presented an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering from Kettering University/GMI in June 2004. He was named a Fellow by both the World Academy of Productivity Science and the Institute of Industrial Engineering in 1999. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996, received the Outstanding Achievement Award in management from the Institute of Industrial Engineers in 1994 and received the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award from Pennsylvania State University in 1993.

He and his wife, Leslie, reside in Virginia Beach, VA, and have a married son, who is an Industrial Engineer.

John Samuels, Jr. was Spring 2005 Distinguished Lecturer
Dr. Samuels speaks to faculty, staff, and students in the Library of the Rotunda
Dr. Lester Hoel presents Dr. Samuels with a gift in appreciation of his visit and lecture


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