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A multi-observational approach to understanding urban air quality in Kenya (CENTA2-PHYS6-VAND2)

Project Description

Air pollution is major contributor to the burden of disease globally, with more than 4 million premature deaths each year attributed to outdoor fine particulate matter exposure alone. Economic development is often accompanied by increased levels of air pollution, which places much of the burden on developing countries. With one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Kenya is urbanising rapidly. This has major implications for air quality, for example, the vehicle fleet in Nairobi has been growing exponentially over recent years, and concentrated traffic pollution poses a clear public health threat.

There is great need for the best possible understanding of urban air quality and relative source contributions in Kenyan cities in order to inform future decisions on air quality management. A joint project between the University of Leicester and the University of Nairobi has built a state-of-the-art air quality monitoring facility in Nairobi which will be operational from January 2019. This builds on University of Nairobi’s strong track record of particulate analysis by collecting hourly particulate and gaseous pollutant data and acts as a valuable anchor point for future monitoring and scientific campaigns.

This PhD will use a range of observational techniques in an extended measurement campaign to provide complementary data that will help us contextualise air quality station data. These observations will include in situ gas and particle sampling for speciation, ground-based lidar measurements to understand vertical profiles, and satellite remote sensing to support understanding of regional contributions.
As part of a vibrant multi-disciplinary and international research team, you will contribute to understanding the relative contributions of different air pollution sources, including traffic, biomass burning, natural and regional sources. To do this you will develop a novel experimental and data analysis methodology for maximising the information content available in the observations, thereby improving the accuracy of source apportionment estimates for Nairobi and contributing to the body of evidence needed to underpin future emissions reduction decisions.

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Physics Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.


Cordell, R. L., Mazet, M., Dechoux, C., Hama, S. M. L., Staelens, J., Hofman, J., Stroobants, C., Roekens, E., Kos, G. P. A., Weijers, E. P.,

Frumau, K. F. A., Panteliadis, P., Delaunay, T., Wyche, K. P. & Monks, P. S. (2016). ‘Evaluation of biomass burning across North West Europe and its impact on air quality.’ Atmospheric Environment, 141, pp276-286.
Gaita, S. M., Boman, J., Gatari, M. J., Pettersson, J. B. C., and Janhäll, S. (2014) ‘Source apportionment and seasonal variation of PM2.5in a Sub-Saharan African city: Nairobi, Kenya’, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 9977-9991,
Gatari, M.J., Kinney, P.L., Yan, B, Sclar, E., Volavka-Close, N. Ngo, N.S., Gaita, S.M., Law, A., Ndiba, P.K., Gachanja, A., Graeff, J. and Chillrud, S.N. (2019) ‘High airborne black carbon concentrations measured near roadways in Nairobi, Kenya’, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Volume 68, 2019, Pages 99-109, ISSN 1361-9209,
Hama, S. M. L., Cordell, R. L. & Monks, P. S. (2017). Quantifying primary and secondary source contributions to ultrafine particles in the UK urban background. Atmospheric Environment, 166, pp62-78.
Madonna, F., Amato, F., Vande Hey, J., and Pappalardo, G. (2015) ‘Ceilometer aerosol profiling versus Raman lidar in the frame of the INTERACT campaign of ACTRIS,’ Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 2207-2223,
Mooibroek, D., Staelens, J., Cordell, R., Panreliads, P., Delaunay, T., Weijers, E., Vercauteren, J., Hoogerbrugge, R., Dijkema, M., Monks, P. S. & Roekens, E. (2016).
PM10 Source Apportionment in Five North Western European Cities—Outcome of the Joaquin Project. Airborne Particulate Matter: Sources, Atmospheric Processes and Health, pp264-292. The Royal Society of Chemistry.

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