David Watling, 40
Centenary Chairs at Leeds
Job advertised in The Times Higher October 17, 2003
David Watling started his new job as head of the ten-strong networks research group within the internationally renowned Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University on February 1 this year, the day after his 40th birthday.
The post was one of 18 chairs advertised in The Times Higher last October to mark the university's centenary.
Professor Watling, who has worked at the university for 15 years, boasted expertise in developing the mathematical models to analyse transport networks and the impact of schemes such as congestion charging.
The discipline is fiendishly complex, requiring the models to reflect evolving modern lifestyles that are a far cry from the days when, for example, large numbers of men worked in factories close to home and many women stayed at home.
"People's lifestyle patterns mean they may drop the kids off at school, before travelling to work either by car or by another mode of transport.
They will then travel back, pick up the kids and perhaps drop into the supermarket on the way home. Understanding and modelling people's lifestyles is very difficult," he says.
Difficult certainly, but, as every year brings a growth in the number of vehicles on the road, the probability is that our cities would become gridlocked were it not for the efforts of Professor Watling's team.
Professor Watling finds it hard to conceive of working anywhere else - Leeds' Institute for Transport Studies has achieved the highest possible rating in the past two research assessment exercises. It is the biggest institute of its kind in Britain and one of the biggest in Europe.