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School of Geography

Jing Ma

Urban form, daily travel behaviour and transport CO2 emission: Micro-level analysis and spatial simulation 

Funding: University of Leeds and China Scholarship Council scholarship

Supervisors:  Dr Gordon Mitchell, Dr Alison Heppenstall, Dr David Milne (Institute for Transport Studies)

Why did you decide to study for a PhD, and why Leeds? 

I didn’t have a clear career goal when I studied for an MSc in Beijing, China, but I found that I had a keen interest in travel behaviour and the impacts of built environment. As China has experienced major growth in car ownership and motorised travel, it has brought with it some serious issues of energy consumption, carbon emission, traffic congestion, and air pollution. So I wanted to further my master’s research to find out how to modify people’s daily travel behaviour and mitigate transport CO2 emission to facilitate China’s low-carbon urban development. I chose Leeds to study for a PhD mainly because it has much great expertise in a diversified range of fields, such as spatial analysis, microsimulation, agent-based modelling, and policy evaluation. Moreover, it has many PhD scholarship opportunities for international students. 

Experience of PhD study in the School of Geography and skills learnt.The School of Geography has a very stimulating, supportive and friendly research environment. I encountered many delightful and memorable experiences there. My two supervisors were very encouraging and supportive; they provided me lots of invaluable advice and guidance on my research. Moreover, the Research Support Group, which constitutes approximately five research staff in geography and, in my case, transport studies, also gave me much help and advice. Although it was challenging to learn a new technique, I found it much easier to study here. Staff and PhD students in the School are very friendly, and they are always willing to help you out. I have learned some new techniques, such as spatial microsimulation, java programming, scenario modelling, and other transferrable skills which will be extremely valuable for my career. 

Current employment situation and longer term career aspirations.

After finishing my PhD research in Leeds, I came back to China and now work as a lecturer in School of Geography, Beijing Normal University. My current research focuses on the exploration of activity-travel behaviour and individual-level air pollution exposure, and their impacts on health. I also have some futher research in development, concerning the aspects of environmental justice and health inequalities in China. I am quite interested in doing such research and my career aspiration is to stay in academia for the long term.

More generally, what would you say to someone else who may be considering studying a PhD in the School of Geography?

Studying for a PhD is a daunting task; it takes you three or more years to do one project. However, if you have decided to do a PhD, the School of Geography is quite a good place for consideration. It has a very stimulating and supportive research community, and provides many opportunities for personal development, as well as much research funding for PhD students to attend international conferences and trainings worldwide.