Published: 08 November 2016

New Head of Department for Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor Abigail Bristow brings a background in economics and her leading research in the environmental effects of transport to the role of Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Joining the University of Surrey on 1 September, Professor Bristow was previously Professor of Transport Studies at Loughborough University for 11 years. She joins Surrey as Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Professor Bristow has long experience in transport management and policy, focusing particularly on two of the negative environmental effects of transport: noise and climate change. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics and the Royal Society of the Arts, and was a member of the board of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership from 2007 to 2011.

One key area of Professor Bristow’s work has been minimising the environmental effects of vehicles. Early on in the evolution of low carbon research, she explored ways of achieving significant reductions in passenger transport emissions to meet stringent government targets. She has also worked with the Royal Society of the Arts on the concept of ‘personal carbon trading’ as a way of making individuals more aware of the carbon they are using.

Her work on noise has included the valuation of road traffic and aircraft noise nuisance in a number of cities across the world.

Professor Bristow’s route into civil engineering was an unconventional one: her undergraduate degree was in Economics, which led her to become interested in transport economics and, eventually, infrastructure issues related to transport.

“I’ve always been fascinated by transport – it is a highly multidisciplinary area which has a huge effect on people’s lives,” she comments.

“More broadly, I think this is a really exciting time to be in civil engineering. We have an increasingly urban population needing more and smarter infrastructure. We now have an ageing infrastructure – particularly in water, sewage and drainage – and our road system is at capacity. We also face new challenges in terms of sustainability, and of course we have new technologies that can help us design, monitor and report systems throughout their lifecycle.”

“My challenge as Head of Department at Surrey,” she says, “is to create the best possible environment for staff and students to do their best work, and also to convey to prospective students just how exciting a discipline this is.”

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