Dr Kate Pangbourne

Dr Kate Pangbourne


Potential PhD applicants from around the world and the UK: If you have funding secured, or are applying to secure funding from a sponsor or scholarship scheme to come to University of Leeds to study for a PhD, please get in touch if you are interested in interdisciplinary, mixed methods and/or qualitative study of the following topics smart mobility, transport and/or energy governance, travel and energy behaviours and change, socially just transport policy, persuasive technological approaches to behaviour change. I would be very happy to speak with you about supervising your PhD and to discuss 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. I am a UKCGE Recognised Research Supervisor. 

About me: I am an interdisciplinary resaercher with an academic background spanning social and environmental sciences, humanities and computer science. I am currently the Governance Theme Lead for the multi-institution Energy Demand Research Centre, co-lead of the ITS Social and Political Sciences Research Group and a Deputy Director of the Leeds Social Sciences Institute. My work on transport governance and smart mobility investigates the power relations, structures, scales and processes involved in strategic vision and implementation of transport policies, drawing on notions of state (spatial) projects, multi-level governance, socio-technical transitions and collaborative advantage. My work on behaviour change engages with behavioural science, persuasion and mobile technologies.

Prior to returning to academia in 2003 I  spent around a decade working for Scottish Natural Heritage (now known as Nature Scot), the governance body for the conservation of nature in Scotland. As post-doc at the University of Aberdeen (where I did my PhD) 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), thematically linked through work investigating behaviours of different types and their social, distributional and economic impacts. I joined the Institute for Transport Studies in 2016 with a prestigious five-year EPSRC-funded Living with Environmental Change personal fellowship. I am a former Chair of the Transport Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Transport Geography. 

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 (Post-doctoral) 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 (2019-2023)
  • Advisory Board member, Scottish Rural and Islands Transport Community (2022-present)
  • Associate, Modeshift (2022 – 2023)
  • 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 present)
  • Executive Committee, Universities’ Transport Study Group (2019 to 2023)
  • 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, Social and Political Sciences Research Group

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
  • transport-energy demand convergences and decarbonisation

As Governance Theme Lead for the Energy Demand Research Centre, I am leading an expanding team of academics and researchers investigating a range of governance topics related to energy demand reduction. You can read more here.

I recently led 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 regional deployment of MaaS in the UK. Go-Hi - Travel Made Simple in Scotland’s Highlands & Islands (gohi.app).

Until 2022 I was the Principal Investigator for ADAPT: smart approaches to influencing sustainable behaviour change, 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 that 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 were 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. The capstone of this project was a Randomised Control Trial testing the impact of messaging on walking and cycle, conducted in partnership with BetterPoints Ltd

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.

<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

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 levels 1 and 3. I am undergraduate module leader. 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>