Gillian Harrison

Gillian Harrison

Why I chose to study for a PhD at Leeds 

I completed an undergraduate Masters in Chemistry with Forensic and Pharmaceutical Science in 2003 (Bradford) and wanted to stay in academia (in forensic archaeology), but as funding didn't work out, I took a job at Yorkshire Water in the Environment Team. During my time there, I saw the rise of carbon management and climate change being a real concern from a business point of view. I knew that I wanted to contribute to this significant global challenge utilising my skills and experience in the best way possible, but wasn't sure what that was.

When I saw this course advertised, it seemed perfect for me as it allowed a year of taught courses and group work to build up my wider knowledge of low carbon technologies and climate change before choosing an area to specialise in for my PhD. The team environment in which the DTC operates further adds to the uniqueness of this course, as although we are now all working on different projects our interdisciplinary skills and cross-campus networks can allow us to share knowledge and ideas which you may not be exposed to in traditional PhD courses.

The best aspect of the course

The best aspect is definitely the team work environment which is fostered between the DTC students. There are now three years of students here and we have a good rapport.

My ambitions for the future

I hope to continue my career in academia, carrying on with post doctoral studies in a similar area. However, I am very aware that funding may prohibit this, and so will also look into working for policy advisors or consultancy.

My advice for prospective students

Make sure that this is what you want to do - think about the long term aims, not just because you don't know what else to do!

About my research

In my research, I explore the ethical dimensions of alternative fuel vehicles - considering the technological status and impacts and the supportive policies needed to help them penetrate the market. As our daily lives and national infrastructure have co-evolved with the development of the automobile, many people are dependent on the opportunity to own a car which meets their needs, but at present state of technology, most alternative fuel vehicles do not have attributes which are comparable to our current conventionally fuelled internal combustion engine vehicles (for example infrastructure availability, costs, range, power, capacity), presenting significant barriers to the uptake of alternative fuel vehicle.

Though we may have some moral duty to reduce our carbon emissions for the sake of climate change, and within that should be expected to make some sacrifices, I also acknowledge that these may in some instances be demanding too much of us as individuals. Furthermore, I am concerned that these sacrifices may be unevenly spread across the segments of our society and thus may widen inequality gaps and adversely impact on those already worst off. A number of modeling studies have already been carried out which look at impacts on uptake and explore the effect of policy options. In my research these studies are consolidated, and a number will be selected as case study examples.

Possible indicators of inequity within these models will be implemented and investigated, as possible improvements to modeling techniques, which may ultimately inform actual policy decisions. In support of an accurate model, technological progress timeframes will be assessed, in order that the study can cover a period potentially up to 2050, by which time we would expect road transport to be largely decarbonised. It is also hoped that the technologies can be compared to each other, assessing life cycle emissions and other impacts on wider sustainability, which should not be ignored when designing the next generation of personal vehicles.