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Dr Tong Zhang

On the road to success with Dr Tong Zhang

02 April 2023

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Driving the discussion on transport costs on a global level, we catch up with Crawford School of Public Policy graduate Dr Tong Zhang about winning the 2022 AARES best post-graduate thesis award.

Dr Tong Zhang’s thesis could not have come at a better time with skyrocketing fuel prices and a world adjusting to working from home. She spent years understanding how consumers respond to transport costs, finding that fuel prices alone have widespread impacts not just here in Australia, but on a global front. Higher fuel prices force people drive less, and have important effects on a range of outcomes in the economy, including road safety and housing price differentials within cities.

Her work was a stand out, winning her the coveted 2022 AARES best post-graduate thesis award. Selection criteria is tight, with AARES looking for the most outstanding PhD thesis in the field of agricultural and resource economics from Australian and New Zealand Universities. The last time an ANU student won this prize was in 2013.

Dr Zhang says that the research allowed her to try out new ideas, “meet interesting people and take part in engaging discussions”, with the Crawford School of Public Policy giving her an inspiring environment to enjoy the process.

It wasn’t a straight forward path for Dr Tong Zhang to get into the Crawford School of Public Policy PhD program. Born in Anhui Province in China, she was studying her Master in Economics before arriving in Canberra. The topic of her PhD took time to develop, with Dr Zhang crediting her supervisor Professor Paul Burke for the inspiration. She says Professor Burke’s enthusiasm sparked her interest and says “energy and its relevant climate change issues are major strategic issues that affect the development of human society and the world political and economic pattern. Studying energy challenges requires learning energy economics.”

If anyone is considering or already undertaking a PhD at the Crawford School of Public Policy, she says “figure out how you work best; the sooner you crack your own code the better”. She also added “you should not be afraid to ask questions all the time because others can’t read your mind and know what you do or don’t know already.”

Dr Zhang says a PhD is a long process and you need to get into a rhythm, but you also need to take time for yourself. “Crawford school is very close to the lake. Sitting there and enjoying such a beautiful view can let me forget worries and be loathe to give up” she said. However, this year Dr Zhang says she’s keen to make up for lost time during the pandemic and meet other researchers at conferences around the world.

Here at the Crawford School of Public Policy, we wish Dr Tong Zhang all the best and congratulate her and her supervisor on this marvellous achievement.

For more information about studying a PhD at the Crawford School of Public Policy please see our website.

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Updated:  22 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team