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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Xiangyu Sheng 2012-13

Xiangyu Sheng, Newnham College, 2012


Xiangyu Sheng obtained her BSc in Applied Physics and a BEng and MSc in Environmental Engineering in China. She then completed her PhD in Environmental Science in the UK. Since then, she became a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and worked in the environmental consulting sector in the UK for more than ten years as a Senior Consultant, Principal Consultant and most recently, an Associate Director.

Dissertation title:
Achieving Sustainable Urbanisation: the Case of Air Pollution from Airports

Xiangyu’s report:

My goal for this course is to broaden my scope beyond my strong technical background into project management and sustainable development policy integration.

In this course, I have been able to choose from a variety of subjects to complement my past experience. For example, the course offered a choice of modules which allowed me to expand my knowledge in the social science related subjects, such as “Politics, Society and Nature” in the Department of Geography and “Environmental Economics” and “Climate Change Policy” in the Department of Land Economy. In addition, there are a variety of seminars, discussion groups and societies available in Cambridge and I have found the multi-disciplinary discussions very interesting.
During the course, I acted as a Course Representative and a Graduate Teaching Committee Member which allowed me to think about the education of sustainable development as a whole. I also shared my insights and experiences with other participants on China’s environmental issues with an international perspective.

My MPhil dissertation is focused on sustainable practices regarding the environment in airport design and flight management such as at taxiing, take-off and landing. Emissions of pollutants to air, and air quality around airports, are currently matters of great interest both to those assessing local developments and to international organisations. Appropriate consideration of these requires a systematic approach and tools for source apportionment and assessment of relative impacts. However, as a consequence of the rapid urbanisation transformation which is taking place, there is
almost no assessment of air quality when a new airport expansion is planned or developed in China. Therefore my dissertation will develop methodologies for assessing air pollution in the neighbourhoods surrounding airports in China, using Beijing as an example.

I feel this MPhil programme has been a truly beneficial experience.

Xiangyu Sheng

“After many years working, I felt it was time to take a career break for one year and recharge
myself. Studying for the MPhil enables me to reflect and re-think the fundamental questions about
sustainable development and its surrounding issues.”