Karen Gonzalez, MSc Transport Planning and the Environment student at the University of Leeds.

Karen Gonzalez

Why did you choose to study this course at the Institute for Transport Studies?

Going into my Masters’ I wanted to study at an Institute that understood the main problems facing the cities of today and worked proactively to remedy them. ITS has a world-renowned reputation for excellence in transport planning, combining engaging learning methods and taught seminars, with an impressive staff of industry experts and researchers. 

What has been the best aspect of studying your course so far and why?

Getting a different perspective is essential to my studies, and studying here has led me to meet brilliant people from around the globe with the same interests and passions as me. The best aspect of studying here has been the constant exchange of ideas and experiences shared with my fellow classmates. 

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

One remarkable thing about the program is the exposure to real projects as a means of teaching. On the programme we use software such as QGIS, OmniTrans, RStudio, and Saturn, which are all widely used and valued in the industry. Using these applications on real projects has given me a real working understanding of them in a short period of time. Moreover, the Institute of Transport Studies places a lot of emphasis on independent research, a skill necessary for almost every aspect of planning.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed.

Many of the taught classes will have you complete a project as part of the coursework. Some of the projects I have completed so far have included modelling the impacts of zonal development on the transport network of Delft, and modelling vehicle emissions in Headingley. Completing work based on real data early on really helped us during semester two when we are assigned a Transport Integrated Project, which for us was the Redevelopment of Leeds City Square. We used real data to solve a real problem facing the city, and along the way learned the many things that could go wrong while working on a real-life project. This experience has been invaluable in understanding all the aspects involved in the planning and delivery of any successful transport project.  

Have you been on any fieldtrips? If so, what was your experience of these?

The fieldtrips are definitely a major highlight of the program! They are all very well thought out and planned, and are usually linked to transport concepts we’re studying.

My favourite trip so far has been the Peak District fieldtrip in December. We were all very worried as the weather was less than ideal in the days leading up to the hike, but in the end it all worked out beautifully, even under deep snow. This was an amazing experience, especially since many of us had had little experience with snow prior to coming to Leeds. 

What are your ambitions for the future?

I have the same ambitions I had when I chose to come on the course - being part of a movement that transforms our cities and way of life into more sustainable alternatives. One thing has changed though, and that is the skills that I have acquired and the people that I have met, both of which are treasured tools that will allow me to achieve my ambitions. 

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

The Institute of Transport Studies has much to offer, but it all depends on how much you decide to put into it. It will be difficult, demanding, and frustrating at times but do not lose track of your goals. Absorb all the knowledge available, interact with the professors, get involved with your own research, and get ready to make new friends!