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Eyes in the Sky on the Volatile Soup of Air Pollution Down Below (CENTA2-PHYS3-MARA2)

Project Description

Air pollution is one of the greatest global risk to human health. In Europe there are ambitious plans to reduce our exposure to poor air quality by targeting pollution emitted by multiple anthropogenic sources. An important group of pollutants that contribute to poor air quality, non-methane volatile organic compounds or NMVOCs, are very challenging to monitor and regulate. There are 100s of compounds from multiple sources (Figure 1) that contribute to this family of chemicals and the monitoring network of ground-based instruments is severely limited in space, time, and the number of compounds measured.

Satellite observations provide consistent global coverage to address shortcomings in the surface network. These have been used extensively to determine long-term changes in pollutant concentrations and emissions in global and regional studies. This studentship will involve the analysis of terabytes of data from NASA and ESA space-based instruments to convert these into meaningful information about long-term and spatial changes as well as emissions of air pollution throughout Europe. Interpretation of this information will be aided by the use of the global 3D GEOS-Chem model (

This project is ideal for students with a quantitative background and some computing experience. No prior experience in chemistry or computer modelling is required. Training will be provided by the University of Leicester Research Computing staff and by the lead supervisor who has over 10 years’ chemical transport modelling experience.

The successful applicant will become part of the dynamic and inclusive international GEOS-Chem User Community and have the opportunity to travel to local and international conferences and science meetings to present results from this work. There will also be paid short-term placements at Defra in London to gain hands-on experience in Environmental Policy and at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell to learn about diverse commercial application of Earth observations.

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.


Marais, E. A. 2014. Non-methane volatile organic compounds in Africa: a view from space. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University,

Clean Air Strategy 2019, Defra, 14 January 2019, London, UK,

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