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Developing a Deep Understanding of Air Pollution at Complex Source Locations


Department of Chemistry

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Dr D Carslaw , Dr J D Lee No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This PhD combines issues of real-world importance with the development of new and interesting research data and approaches to address them. Air pollution is currently the largest environmental health stressor in the EU and is an issue that continues to grow in importance. At present the main pollutants of concern in urban and industrial centres are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and small particulate matter (PM). However, other pollutants of concern, especially near to large industrial sources, include heavy metals. Disentangling the contributions of myriad sources at a complex site is a challenging and interesting research problem which has the potential to also provide much-improved information on actions that can be taken to mitigate impacts to the environment.

The project is fully funded by Umicore, a global materials technology and recycling group that dedicates most of its R&D efforts to clean technologies, such as emission control catalysts, materials for rechargeable batteries and recycling. At their Antwerp Hoboken site in Belgium, they make comprehensive measurements of PM and metals in order to monitor and understand the effect of their processes on local air pollution. Linking the measured concentrations of metals with specific sources is a key step in developing improved understanding of emissions. This is an interesting and important research challenge and the motivation for a funded PhD programme.

The main research objectives are to (i) develop new and improved methods of source apportionment to better characterise complex emission sources, (ii) develop a detailed dispersion modelling approaches based on open source models, (iii) couple innovative ambient data analysis approaches with air quality modelling to improve the quantification of different source impacts. To achieve these aims, the student will have access to detailed hourly metals data from X-ray fluorescence instruments and a wider network of daily measurements. Examples of previous work in this area include the development of the ’openair’ R package, which is widely used throughout the world by academia, governmental bodies and the private sector and will be used (and extended) by the student throughout the project.

The student would work closely with staff at Umicore (the funder) and would undertake regular (likely twice-annual) visits to the Antwerp site. Additionally, there is an excellent opportunity to learn from scientists and researchers working on environmental sustainability at Umicore. The University of York provides comprehensive training programmes for PhD students with a range of courses on both hard and soft skills. The student will also have access to the wider resources that National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) provides, such as the Introduction to Atmospheric Science course and Atmospheric Measurement Summer School on the Isle of Arran, and future developments in computations and data analysis.

The student will have the opportunity to present their work to the scientific community at national and international meetings and conferences. They will also be encouraged to take part in outreach events organised by both WACL and NCAS in order to disseminate the research beyond the immediate scientific community (e.g. to policymakers and the general public).


Funding Notes

Fully funded for 3.5 years by Umicore and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the rate of £16,285 for 2020-21), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables.

Any student who is eligible to pay tuition fees at the home rate is welcome to apply: https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/fees/status/.

It is not available to those who would pay fees at the overseas rate.

References

Candidate selection process:
• You should hold or expect to receive at least an upper second class degree (or European equivalent https://www.york.ac.uk/study/international/your-country/) in chemistry, Mathematics, Physics or Environmental Science
• Applicants should submit a PhD application to the University of York by 31 July 2020
• Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone or web-chat
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome by email
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