Vonu’s research focuses on the connections among transportation, society and technology with the view that sustainable and socially-just mobility in cities of the future will require planners to jointly consider social and technological challenges. She is interested in "smart" public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian active transportation, as well as in collaborative/shared transportation systems. Her research has considered the needs of a wide spectrum of travellers including low-wage workers, seniors, persons with disabilities and young adults and her work links social equity and human capital considerations to the labour market, safety, well-being and other outcomes experienced by travellers. She is interested in the potential of technologies to improve livability, learning and engagement in cities and on the effective use of Big Data for urban planning, policy and business innovations.
Prior to her position at the University of Glasgow, she was a professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago and a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, both in the US. Vonu has published over 165 journal papers, conference proceedings and technical reports. She has been Principal Investigator of grants of approximately £14.89 million (about $25 million) and has been involved in research grants of over £32 million in total (as PI, Co-I or Investigator) in the US and the UK. She served as the Principal Investigator of a series of research grants to study mobility and accessibility outcomes experienced by low-wage workers, persons with disabilities and seniors. This work was funded by the US Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration and the Community Transportation Association of America together with the US Department of Labor.
Vonu is the author of the book Transportation and Information: Trends in Technology and Policy (co-author: Glenn Geers, NICTA Australia) recently published by Springer. Her work on ICT and transportation has been supported by the US National Science Foundation, Federal Highway Administration, Navteq LLC and a number of other local and state agencies. Vonu is currently the PI of the Urban Big Data Centre award from ESRC and was previously the PI of an NSF grant on Big Data and Urban Informatics. She is a Co-I of the ESRC-funded Administrative Data Research Centre based in University of Edinburgh. She serves in the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework Governance Group of the Glasgow Future City Demonstrator project funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board.
Vonu has consulted on or otherwise collaborated on transportation projects in Malaysia, China, India, Australia, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. She is a founding co-chair of the joint subcommittee on Computational Transportation and Society of the Transportation Research Board, National Academy of Sciences, which is focusing on the computational, design, analytics, social and legal aspects of Big Data for mobility and accessibility. She served as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA Journal) from 2010 to 2013.
From October 2018 Vonu is Distinguished Professor of Rutgers University in the Greater New York City Area and Dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Visiting Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences (University of Glasgow).