The last week of July saw the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham host the 2023 Birmingham Decarbonisation Summer School.
The summer school brought together postgraduate researchers from 11 UK universities to team up and propose a decarbonisation plan for the Birmingham-Peterborough rail line, which serves Cross Country passenger trains and incoming freight traffic from Felixstowe.
"The main aim of the summer school was introducing the challenges of rail decarbonisation to postgraduate researchers who do not necessarily have a background in rail" said Rabee Jibrin, the summer school’s lead organiser and PhD candidate in rail decarbonisation and optimisation at the University of Birmingham.
Collaborating with fellow doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds allowed us to exchange ideas, share experiences, and build lasting connections in the field of decarbonisation.The format of the summer school involved two days of seminars focused on rail, followed by two days for teams to work on their proposals, leading to the final day of pitching proposals to a judging panel.
Abdullah Zaheer, a participating PhD candidate from Loughborough University
"It was designed to familiarise postgraduate researchers with rail and offer them a window into the world of technical consulting at the same time. Which is why we partnered with Ricardo plc to design the programme and the challenge", added Rabee.
"At Ricardo, we help our clients across the rail industry find ways to reduce their environmental impact and meet sustainability targets. We brought our real-world insights into the summer school to help participants understand some of the economic, technological and operational challenges facing the rail sector" said Jake Cartmell, Head of Engineering Strategy and Performance at Ricardo.
He also added "It was great to see how the seminars fed into the groups’ discussions and ultimately into their pitches which withstood some tough questioning from the judging panel on the final day. I hope the experience has given these talented individuals an insight into the opportunities and complexities within the rail industry, and inspired some to think about a career in our sector."
Abdullah Zaheer, a participating PhD candidate from Loughborough University who specialises in decarbonising the built environment, described his summer school experience as a "unique opportunity to delve into the challenges and advancements of sustainable transport and rail".
Abdullah adds "Collaborating with fellow doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds allowed us to exchange ideas, share experiences, and build lasting connections in the field of decarbonisation. In addition, interacting with academic and industry experts provided valuable opportunities to showcase our work and receive feedback. The connections made during the summer school will prove invaluable in my future research journey."
Lennie Foster, Skills Manager for the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and C-DICE, which co-sponsored the summer school, said: "It was a pleasure to support Rabee to design, develop, and deliver The Birmingham Decarbonisation Summer School, providing skills development and knowledge acquisition for both him and the Early Career Researchers from across the ERA and C-DICE Networks that participated in the event."
70% of the participants agreed that their participation in the summer school has encouraged them to consider a career in rail, "A testament to the role of such initiatives in addressing the skills shortage in net-zero and rail" added Rabee.
When asked about future initiatives, "We are already brainstorming ideas for a 2024 summer school" affirmed Rabee.
The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education is part of the University of Birmingham’s School of Engineering and is the largest specialist railway research, education, and innovation centre in Europe. With over 180 academic, research, and professional staff, focused on supporting the global rail industry to thrive by driving cutting-edge research, training the current and next generation of the workforce, and supporting the development and commercialisation of innovative new technologies.