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Homepage / My PhD experience within the Centre for Air Transport at Cranfield University

My PhD experience within the Centre for Air Transport at Cranfield University


Mengyuan began her PhD in the Centre for Air Transport in October 2022She recently shared what she is working on and how she has found studying at Cranfield University so far. 

Why did you choose Cranfield University to undertake your PhD studies? 

Cranfield University is well known within the aviation industry. When I finished my Master’s degree in the U.S. I was doing an internship at ACI-NA (Airports Council International-North America). Some of my ACI colleagues and directors had graduated from Cranfield and recommended that I come here for my PhD studies. 


What does your PhD research focus on? 

My PhD topic is an Assessment and Optimisation of Air-High Speed Rail (HSR) Integration. In recent years how airlines work and integrate with high-speed rail services has become an area of significant interest, especially to potentially reduce carbon emissions.  The objective is to evaluate the current level of air-HSR intermodal network and optimise the integration network. 


What has your experience been like so far? 

Positive. I feel fulfilled here every day. There are many opportunities for me to learn and grow. I have attended some modules on the Air Transport Management MSc that I was interested in, such as aviation environment and aviation law. I also had the opportunity to go to the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS) conference and present my research proposal.  

The ATRS is the largest conference of aviation management, economists, and operational researchers in the world – it was great to present my work in such a distinguished research community. We also have research club in the Centre, and I have discussed my work there with faculty members and other research fellows. 


You recently completed an internship at the Department for Transport.  Can you tell us more about that experience? 

I was incredibly lucky to be selected as one of the fifteen PhD students across the UK to be part of the Department for Transport (DfT) internship program in 2023. During this internship, I worked with the Demand Analysis Team on traffic forecasting and modelling. My primary responsibility was to research on the long-term implications of Covid-19 on travel behaviour and traffic forecasting through a systematic literature review, and then propose policy and modelling recommendations to reflect the changes based on evidence.  


You have also had the chance to work with TUI, can you tell us more about that experience and how you got involved? 

Last year, TUI came to Cranfield for a collaborative project about airline strategic decarbonisation. I got involved in this project through an introduction by Professor Graham Braithwaite, who is Director of the Transport Systems here at Cranfield and on the Safety Review board of TUI. Since then, I researched on roadmap development, emission model and operation improvement for the newly established strategic decarbonisation team of TUI. 


You have recently had a paper published in the Journal of Transport Geography.  What were the main findings? 

The paper is about Fractal Assessment analysis of air-HSR network integration in China and comes from the first original research elements of my PhD. The study concludes that excellence in air-HSR integration requires improvement in three areas; namely infrastructure supply; connectivity service; and passenger experience. 


What are you working on at the moment? 

Now I am preparing for the 24-month review of my PhD and preparing another research proposal for the ATRS conference that will be held in July. 


What do you intend to do once you have completed your PhD? 

Through completing my PhD I found that I really enjoyed solving practical problems through research projects. So, I hope to join a consulting company or an airline and work as a research consultant after I have completed my PhD studies. 

Cranfield University

Written By: Alice Kirkaldy

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