Our research fellows and doctoral students

More than two dozen research fellows and doctoral students work in partnership with us. Their research spans a range of engineering topics.

Here, some of our research fellows and doctoral students explain how their work helps us contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals.

Sustainability must underpin our decisions in response to the climate and energy crisis. Everybody is talking about carbon, but do you know how reliable or trustworthy is the data we are using for carbon management?

Actually, the data mostly comes from averages and estimations, and there are a lot of carbon emission not well measured and reported.

Availability and accessibility of good data forms the baseline of informed decision making in carbon-management. If we don’t have accurate and trustworthy data:

  • we don’t know how good or how bad we are doing toward our net-zero target
  • we cannot make more informed decisions and take more effective actions to achieve the target.

Currently, data collected from different technologies are like pearls scattered on a plate, and I am going to string the pearls up with a standard data model to make our future roads like shinning necklaces.

Just like every car has a real-time dashboard for drivers to make prompt decisions, every road should also have a dashboard to help planners, designers, asset managers and users be aware of its real-time situation for decision-making underpinning carbon management, and finally sustainability.

Understanding the degradation mechanism of concrete infrastructure helps us increase its service life and minimise maintenance. It also helps us assess the suitability of novel low carbon concretes for use in critical infrastructural projects.

My project interrogates the performance of composite concretes when exposed to accelerated carbonation or chlorides and in a combined exposure condition. The results from this study will enable us to identify the overall performance of alternative slag-based composite concretes as a function of age and mix design.

This is of great industrial interest, as these concretes are now being added to existing British Standards.

As we transition towards more sustainable practices, including the use of low carbon concretes, it's important to ensure that these materials can withstand the conditions they will be used for. This helps us:

  • minimise potential disruptions in the transport infrastructure network in the longer term
  • reduce maintenance requirements by extending the service life of high value transport infrastructure assets.

My PhD research centred on developing algorithms that can effectively predict potential traffic conflicts on roads.

To be successful, these algorithms need to detect more than just direct risks. They should be able to identify potentially dangerous situations - and ways to avoid them. This type of technology is essential to the development of self-driving vehicles.

National Highways provided one of the key elements underpinning my PhD – data from the Motorway Detection and Automatic Signalling (MIDAS) system.

MIDAS is a network of sensors that collect traffic flow and speed data. National Highways Control Centres use this information to set variable message signs as well as advisory and manadatory speed limits.

I combined MIDAS information together with data collected on-road by an instrument-equipped vehicle. From this, I developed an artificial intelligence-based collision avoidance system with an accuracy rate exceeding 92%.

After my PhD, I embarked on a £1.2 million innovation project called Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Infrastructure Appraisal (CAVIAR) in partnership with National Highways and Innovate UK.

This project marked a significant shift in my career. While working on it, I saw first-hand the how research, coupled with industry collaboration, can advance safety, efficiency, and innovation.

I wanted to translate my knowledge into practical application. That's why I decided to leave academia and join National Highways as a Senior Research Engineer.

Looking ahead, I'm filled with anticipation. I feel like I'm using my expertise to help shape safer, more connected future.

My work has strange similarity with a diet. The weight of each material used in building and maintaining roads is accounted for, in addition to the composition of the material, like counting calories and nutrition.

The net addition to the road stock can be calculated either by a simple input-output calculation or by difference of the stock from one point in time to another, like weighing yourself to see if weight was lost or gained.

Unlike in a diet, the generated waste is also accounted for, for input-output calculations, landfill capacities and environmental impact.

After understanding the system of materials circulating in and through the road sector, a future diet plan can be established to help the sector to achieve their goals.