University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
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University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes

Interfacial Photochemistry in Aerosol Droplets: Chemistry and Climate Impacts


About the Project

Applications are invited for a 4 year PhD studentship starting in Autumn 2021 as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science:

Project description
Atmospheric aerosols impact global climate directly by scattering sunlight and indirectly by serving as the seeds for cloud droplets. The aerosol indirect effect is the largest negative and most uncertain radiative forcing. With respect to health, aerosols are a major component of air pollution, which contributed to about 14% of the worldwide annual mortality rate in 2016. Surfactants are rapidly emerging as common but poorly understood components of aerosol composition, and mounting evidence indicates that the surfaces of aerosols are key to governing their atmospheric chemistry and impacts. For example, surface composition determines the ability of atmospheric particles to serve as cloud droplets. Sea spray aerosol, the largest global aerosol source, is often enriched with surface active molecules that undergo unique reactions that differ from those in macroscopic solutions.

This project will study directly light-induced reactivity at the droplet-air interface of individual droplets, linking interfacial composition to atmospheric reactivity. Our home-built holographic optical tweezers instrument allows the capture and investigation of individual droplets in the size range of growing cloud droplets. Properties such as droplet size, composition, surface tension, and viscosity are retrieved from the measurement. In this project, a light source incorporated into the setup will induce photochemistry at the surface of droplets containing a photoactive surfactant. Novel products will form that will partition between the droplet surface and bulk as well as potentially evaporate into the gas phase, changing fundamental droplet properties that govern climate impacts. By systematically varying parameters like droplet size, surfactant identity and concentration, and droplet viscosity, the experimental results will be developed into a framework describing the rates and potential climate effects of this chemistry through collaborations with modellers.

If you would like to learn more about this project, please contact Dr Bryan Bzdek:

About the Centre for Doctoral training in Aerosol Science
Aerosol science is crucial to disciplines as broad ranging as drug delivery to the lungs, transmission of disease, climate change, energy and combustion science, novel materials, and consumer and agricultural products.

An aerosol is any collection of particles dispersed in a gas. The CDT brings together a multi-disciplinary team of 80 post-graduate students and academics from 7 UK universities spanning the physical, environmental and health sciences, and engineering. Our aim is to tackle the global challenges in which aerosol science is key.

Further details are available from our website:

Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science
During your doctorate, you will learn to research in diverse multidisciplinary teams, gain an advanced understanding of the core physical science of aerosols, and collaborate with industrial and public sector partners, equipping you to undertake ground-breaking research in aerosol science.

During the first 7 months of your PhD, you will join the CDT cohort based at the University of Bristol. Core training in aerosol science, research methods, professionalism and translation will be delivered by Team Based Learning.
You will then undertake a short research project at your home or partner institution before starting your PhD research. You will gain experience outside academia in a placement with an industrial/public sector partner in Year 2 or 3.

How to Apply
Candidates who aspire to work in a multidisciplinary field, and hold or will achieve a minimum of an upper second-class undergraduate degree in any of these areas are encouraged to apply: chemistry, physics, biological sciences, life and medical sciences, mathematics and computer science, chemical and mechanical engineering, pharmaceutical and environmental sciences.

Apply via our website:

Apply by 9am on Monday 25th January 2021– eligible shortlisted candidates will be invited to an online recruitment and assessment day on 1st February 2021. Applications after this date will be subject to remaining availability of studentships.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
We are committed to furthering issues of equality, diversity and inclusion and are keen to attract the most highly talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. The needs of individuals will be accommodated during the recruitment process and while studying with the CDT. Further information on our commitment to equality and diversity can be found on our website.

Funding Notes

Successful Aerosol Science CDT candidates who meet the funding criteria will receive a studentship covering tuition fees, research and training support grant, plus a stipend to cover your living expenses while you train, paid at the standard UKRI rate.

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