Spotlight on... Nick Tyler

This week we meet Professor Nick Tyler, Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of PEARL. Find out more about his involvement with PEARL and how Nick aims to break down disciplinary barriers to gain a fuller understanding of the world around us.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering, Director of the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, and Director of PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory). The role involves transcending the frontiers of our current understanding.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I came to UCL in 1987 as a Research Assistant. Previous to that I was doing an MSc in Transportation Planning and Management at the Polytechnic of Central London, but my previous role was in logistics, as an Operations Manager for a pharmaceutical distribution company. I have had several roles in UCL, but only one activity - to figure out how to make the world a better place for both people and planet.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Creating PEARL: this is about creating a whole new vision for thinking and learning, and fusing conventional disciplines in order to understand how we perceive, understand and respond to the environment around us. It was clear that the problems facing people and planet are far more complex than any one discipline can illuminate, so it was necessary to break down the silos created over the last 300 or so years to create a platform for true understanding of the fundamental challenge. PEARL was conceived to provide a platform that embraces, challenges, allows - maybe even forces - us to reconsider the world from transdisciplinary perspectives.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

Making a sound for e-scooters so that people are less surprised by them in the urban environment. This is based on how human hearing evolved (why do we have ears?) and how we could use the body’s own alert systems to provide the reassurance necessary for people to feel well in the urban environment. We have been exploring a large number of different possible sounds, to see which ones ’speak better’ to us in the context of the noisy urban soundscape, so that we can provide a sound that does not increase the noise but still enables people to respond appropriately when they hear the sound - tricky because the "appropriate response" is to do precisely nothing!

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Simon Preston playing the complete organ works of JS Bach; not so much a film, but the arrival of Shamer Ali in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is a film all of its own; Le Bossu de Notre Dame.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

This is a type.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Michel de Montaigne, Heraclitus, Hildegard of Bingen, Properzia de’ Rossi.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Have the confidence to let go.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I have no 3D vision.

What is your favourite place?

Machu Picchu at dawn.

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