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Understanding the impact of trace level sulfur dioxide on air pollution and climate

Project Description

This project will use a newly developed laser induced fluorescence instrument to investigate the chemistry of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and its role in atmospheric particle formation.

Particulate matter (PM) is a major air quality challenge, estimated to be responsible for >29,000 equivalent deaths a year in the UK alone, and also represents a major uncertainty in current climate model predictions. Current UK targets, as outlined in the 2018 Clean Air Strategy, are to halve the number of people exposed to PM smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) concentrations above 10 μg m-3by 2025. This is going to be a challenge as primary components of PM2.5 have been reduced through emissions controls, meaning secondary PM, produced through atmospheric chemical reactions, now dominate. Understanding secondary PM production is therefore vital if we are to develop effective policies to tackle both PM air pollution and climate.

The oxidation of gas phase SO2 is central to the production of secondary inorganic PM. Significant reductions in SO2 emissions in the developed world over recent years have resulted in background concentrations of SO2 falling drastically. Although this is a major policy success, even at very low concentrations SO2 is still thought to play an important role in PM production, but current models disagree on the impact further SO2emission reductions will have. The best way to improve our understanding of the chemistry occurring at low SO2 concentrations is to directly measure it. Unfortunately current methods for measuring SO2 are no longer sensitive enough to measure the low background levels, undermining work to better understand the production of secondary PM. Recently a new instrument has been developed at the University of York for the sensitive detection of trace levels of SO2. This PhD project will be the first to use this instrument to make the much needed observations capable of improving our understanding of background SO2 chemistry. This will be achieved through the following objectives:
• Characterise new SO2 instrument performance using lab and field experiments
• Deploy instrument as part of 3 field projects, two in the UK and one aboard a research cruise to the Arctic
• Use the data from these field projects to challenge and improve our understanding of atmospheric SO2 chemistry through comparison with model predictions
This work will address an important knowledge gap in our understanding of atmospheric chemistry and thus directly improve our ability to design effective environmental policies.
The project will be based in the University of York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, a world leading centre for novel instrument development and home to more than 65 researchers with interests in all aspects of atmospheric chemistry. The instrumental and measurement focus of this PhD project means the ideal candidate will have excellent practical / physical laboratory skills as well as a background in the physical sciences (e.g. Chemistry, Physics). However, suitable candidates with other strengths would also be able to make a success of the project, given the training that is available from WACL, the University of York’s Chemistry department and the PANORAMA DTP. More details of the project can be found on the NERC PANORAMA DTP web page (panorama-dtp.ac.uk).

The Leeds-York Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PANORAMA Doctoral Training partnership (DTP) has a comprehensive programme of researcher training covering subject-specific and generic skills. Students will obtain some training and understanding of the full range of training topics. All new students are required to make a training plan when they start their PhD. Training courses are split into ‘nodes’ covering different aspects of your PhD, much of the training in transferable skills will be provided centrally by the Staff and Departmental Development Unit (SDDU) at Leeds and the equivalent service at York (Skills Forge). Inductions and training on specific lab instruments and techniques will be provided by individual labs/departments as required by each student.
Additionally, all Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills.

You will be based in the Department of Chemistry at the University of York.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: https://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/ed/. This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2020. Induction activities will start on 28 September.

Funding Notes

Value: The studentships are fully funded by NERC for 3.5 years and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020, to be confirmed for 2020-2021 but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.
Eligibility: Unless stated otherwise, fully funded studentships (stipend + fees) are offered to both UK and EU applicants.


Candidate selection process:
• Applicants should submit a PhD application to the university of Leeds by Monday 6 January 2020
• Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors rank the candidates for the assessment panel
• The assessment panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of Leeds on the week commencing 24 February 2020
• The Leeds PANORAMA DTP awarding committee will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email
• Successful candidates will then need to submit a formal PhD application to the University of York

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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