- Course: MSc and PhD Sustainability in Transport
- Year of graduation: 2014 (MSc)
- Nationality: Greek
- Job title: Assistant Planning Manager
- Company: Highways England
I did my MSc Sustainability in Transport at ITS, University of Leeds. As I was very pleased with the quality of research and teaching, I decided to start my search for a PhD from here. It also happened that the supervisor that I wanted to do my PhD with, whom I met during the Masters at the ITS, was advertising a PhD topic that was very close to what I had in mind. It was a very easy and straightforward decision.
I am currently a part-time student so I suppose my experience is quite different from other researchers'. I visit ITS a few times a month and people are always very welcoming. The full-time students that I started my PhD with have been particularly helpful, as they are always ahead of me and happy to give me advice on how to progress with the next steps of my PhD. I also have a great relationship with my supervisors. They make a great team; they are very supportive and fun to work with!
The best part of being at ITS is definitely the community you become part of. The students are motivated and passionate about transport, so you get to be as geeky as you want. The academic staff are friendly and supportive and working on diverse areas of research, making ITS a very inspiring environment to work at. Finally, the alumni network is great. Although small, the world of transport is easier to navigate when you have a degree from ITS.
My research focuses on the governance of smart mobility. I call smart mobility the new transport services that are provided by private businesses and use innovative technologies and business models promising to radically change the way people move. Possibly the most popular example is Uber.
Uber's innovation is not the technology it uses: a car and an app, but its' business model. It is a multinational company expanding rapidly, offering services that until very recently were only offered locally and were highly regulated. Of course, it is also widely known that Uber has been involved in numerous legal battles with local authorities and taxi operators across the world because of its disruptive and expansive business model. What I want to understand is how local authorities think about businesses such as Uber and how they fit them in their urban transport strategies, if they do. Similarly, I would like to understand whether businesses such as Uber are interested in working with local authorities to improve urban transport, and how. Finally, if a collaboration were to happen, I'd like to investigate its terms, the responsibilities of private operators and those of the city towards the citizens, and the possibility of the private sector actively contributing to a city's long-term strategic goals. To get there, I am going to do site visits to cities in Europe and North America, and speak to public officials and private businesses, which I am very much looking forward to!
Most of my time outside my studies I work full time as a transport consultant, a job that I got through the ITS employer visits. In my free time, I go travelling, watch films, and spend time out with friends. I also try to exercise as much as can, although I never like it.
At the moment, I am really enjoying working both as a practitioner and in academia. They can be both complementary and contradicting, which helps me understand transport in different ways and develop a variety of skills. In the future, I want to use this experience to work on policymaking, either as an academic, or a practitioner for the private or the public sector. Working on urban transport is a priority.
My advice for prospective students is that it is important to really like your PhD topic. You'll probably get tired of it at some point, so make sure it can keep you motivated. Also, maintain a strong support network of friends, colleagues, supervisors, and family. A PhD can create a lot of stress and self-doubt so make sure you have people around you to discuss your problems or just go out for a drink. Finally, take time off. Doing a PhD can be very competitive but also is very much an individual piece of work. Develop your own schedule and leave some gaps in it if you feel it's right, even if others seem to work longer hours than you. Have fun and enjoy yourself- being in Leeds makes this easier.