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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Meet Our PhD Student: Kangkang (KK) Tong


Q: What's your story?

I was born in a city where the Yangtze River runs through in China. Our family used to live on growing rice. My childhood experience living in a rural area drove me to choose environmental science as an undergraduate. After I gained my bachelor degree, I went to the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences to pursue a masters degree in ecology. After living in Beijing, one of the biggest cities in the world, for about four years, I decided to travel around a little bit, since I did not know what I should do for my rest of life. In the tradition of young people in China, I traveled to Tibet and then went to Nepal. I enjoyed hiking in the Mt. Everest area, and then I went to New Zealand. After travelling for about one year, I decided to come back to school and pursue my PhD degree, hoping to become a faculty member in the future.

Q: How did you end up in the PhD program at the Humphrey School?

When I pursued my master's degree I read Professor Anu Ramaswami’s paper about urban greenhouse gas emission footprints. After I decided to come back to school, I emailed Professor Ramaswami to ask whether she would be my adviser. I enrolled in the Master of Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program for my first year, since the PhD program did not exist. One year later, I applied to the PhD degree program at the Humphrey School.


Q: What projects are you currently working on?

My PhD program is largely supported by NSF-PIRE (Partnership for International Research and Education): Developing Low-Carbon Cities in the US, China, and India Through Integration Across Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, and Public Health. I’m working under this program and focus on studies of Chinese cities. My work is to explore the environmental impact of urban activities from the perspective of infrastructure. In addition to environmental impact, I’m also looking at financial data to explore how public finance systems work around Chinese urban infrastructure systems.

Q: Have you participated in any cool events or conferences since joining the PhD program?

Last year, I went to Australia for an industrial ecology conference. It was my first time attending an international conference and I presented my four Chinese cities paper in front of a number of experts. I was happy that everything went well and I had chance to meet scholars doing environmental research from other institutes.

This June, I worked as a volunteer for the Public Management Research Association Conference at the Humphrey School. I was really happy to participate in the sessions and to learn  how scholars from public management/administration do research. As a PhD student, I had conversations with both junior and senior researchers about how to conduct research. Their suggestions on what I should do to prepare for my future career were very helpful. The real bridge between my environmental science background and public policy study has been forming gradually through listening to presentations and discussing issues with other researchers.

I also had the chance to be a student facilitator guiding conversations about climate change, at the World Wide Views on Climate Change event. The attendees' opinions on climate change will be integrated with citizens from other 130 cities and presented at the UN Climate Change conference in Pairs, France this December. This was my first time to listening to the public’s voice on climate change and I really enjoyed it.

Q: Have you recently published any research?

During my master's study, I published three Chinese papers. I recently submitted a group paper on estimating the infrastructure based greenhouse gas footprint of four Chinese cities and I’m preparing to submit another paper about the Chinese five-year plan.

Q: What are your future research plans?

As I mentioned above,  I’ve almost finished two projects and I’m doing another group project about city typology. In addition,  I’ll look at the financial data of urban infrastructure to understand how Chinese urban infrastructure systems are funded and what the influential factors are for deciding how much money is spent on these systems. The results can potentially shed some light on what we can do if we decide to fund a sustainable infrastructure. This discussion will be a part of my dissertation.

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