Dr Kate Pangbourne

Dr Kate Pangbourne


Potential PhD applicants from around the world and the UK: Please contact me if you have already secured, or will be able to secure from a sponsor, a scholarship to come to the University of Leeds to study and are interested in undertaking a PhD in topics including that fit with my areas of expertise (such as smart mobility, public governance, travel behaviour, socially just transport policy, persuasive technology). I would be very happy to speak with you about supervising your PhD and to discuss and design a suitable project with you. I am particularly interested in supervising projects that seek to address the issue of deep carbon cuts in transport  for governance, policy and individual behaviours from a critically-informed perspective. Prospective PhD candidates with an interest in transport and a degree background in human ecology, human geography, sociology, psychology or persuasive technology are likely to fit well with my areas of interest and expertise. I am also very happy to consider supervising part-time PhDs for people working in any area of transport governance or consultancy.

About me: I joined the Institute in early June 2016.  At ITS, I am developing a distinctive personal research agenda in innovative research in sustainable travel and persuasive technology, as well as critical work exploring the implications of socio-technical change at the interface of transport, governance and sustainability. I adopt highly interdisciplinary approaches, drawing on concepts and methods used in sociology, political and transport geography and computing science (mainly argumentation and human-computer interaction). I am a Deputy Director of the Leeds Social Sciences Institute, and within ITS co-lead the Digital Futures theme with Professor Susan Grant-Muller. Prior to returning to academia in 2003 I  spent around a decade working for Scottish Natural Heritage, the governance body for the conservation of nature in Scotland. As post-doc at the University of Aberdeen I worked on a variety of projects funded by different sources, including CAP-IRE (EU FP7), PolicyGrid II (ESRC/Digital Social Research), and MyWay (EU FP7).

Brief Biography

  • 2021 – present Associate Professor, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
  • 2016 – 2021 University Academic Fellow, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
  • 2009 – 2016 Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen
  • 2005 – 2010 PhD, University of Aberdeen
  • 2003 – 2005 Research Assistant, University of Aberdeen
  • 2002 – 2003 MSc Sustainable Rural Development, University of Aberdeen
  • 1991 – 2002 Scottish Natural Heritage
  • 1989 – 1990 Marine Harvest
  • 1984 – 1988 MA (Hons) Philosophy with English Literature, University of Edinburgh

Other Selected Activities

  • FORMAS Peer Reviewer (2019)
  • ERC Peer Reviewer (2019)
  • ESRC Peer Reviewer (2018)
  • Associate, Modeshift (2022 – present)
  • Director, Act TravelWise (2020 – 2022)
  • Advisory Board member, H2020-funded MoTiV Project (2017 – 2020)
  • Member, National Transport Strategy 2 Strategic Framework Working Group (Transport Scotland) (2017 – 2019) 
  • EPSRC Peer Review College (May 2016 to date)
  • Executive Committee, Universities’ Transport Study Group (2019 to date)
  • Fellow, Royal Geographical Society with IBG (2011 to date)
  • Chair, Transport Geography Research Group of RGS-IBG (2016 – 2019)


  • Deputy Director Leeds Social Sciences Institute
  • Co-theme Leader, Digital Futures

Research interests

Key Research Interests

  • the nexus of technology, sustainability and transport
  • smart travel behaviour
  • persuasive technology and ethics of behaviour change communication
  • governance of transport and smart mobility

I am currently leading the evaluation activities for the HITRANS Mobility as a Service pilot in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, funded by Transport Scotland. Go-Hi is the first geographically large deployment of MaaS in the UK. Go-Hi - Travel Made Simple in Scotland’s Highlands & Islands (gohi.app); I am also a Michael Beverley Innovation Fellow for 2022, seeking to translate the work I have done on ADAPT and with the Go-Hi project into tangible advances in steering sustainable travel through MaaS.

Until 2022 I was the Principal Investigator for ADAPT: smart approaches to influencing sustainable behaviour change, which is the focus of my five year personal fellowship funded by an EPSRC LWEC Challenge Fellowship (2016-2022) (grant number EP/N030524/1). The objective of this project was to develop more effective methods of influencing people to act voluntarily in relation to adapting to and mitigating environmental change, in the transport domain. Key aims are to investigate (1) whether there are systematic patterns of argumentation in existing material aimed at influencing the public to change behaviour; (2) if existing communication material can be better matched to individual preferences in relation to argument structure, content or framing, and (3) to use the findings to create algorithms for use in public-facing websites or mobile apps for personalising persuasive arguments to support behaviour change. I have two part-time research assistants who are working on building the Sustainable Transport Communications Dataset as a corpus resource for the argumentation community and conducting message experiments exploring relationships between and effectiveness of argument type, argument value, personality and travel attitude.

I was also involved in the rail passenger experience elements of the H2020/Shift2Rail-funded SMaRTE project, exploring determinants of passenger satisfaction with end-to-end journeys involving rail, in order to understand pain points and attrition rates of potential passengers to other modes. My work on transport governance and smart mobility investigates the structures, scales and processes involved in strategic vision and implementation of transport policies, drawing on notions of state (spatial) projects, power relations, multi-level governance, socio-technical transitions and collaborative advantage.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, The Changing Geography of Scottish Transport Governance, University of Aberdeen
  • MSc, Sustainable Rural Development, University of Aberdeen
  • MA (Hons), Philosophy with English Literature, University of Edinburgh

Professional memberships

  • Fellow, Royal Geographical Society with IBG
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Chartered Member, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
  • Transport Planning Society

Student education

I support student education in ITS through Masters dissertation supervision and other contributions to level 5 modules, and I also teach undergraduates at leavels 1 and 3. I am module leader for TRAN1011, which is a core module for undergraduates taking Geography with Transport in the School of Geography and those taking Sustainable Environmental Management in the School of Earth and Environment. It is also a Discovery module, available to undergrads across the university when numbers allow. 

I occasionally supervise dissertations in Earth & Environment. In addition to teaching transport from a geographic perspective, I have a particular interest in developing critical thinking and writing skills.

Research groups and institutes

  • Social and Political Sciences

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>