2021-22 Cohort

Our third cohort of 18 students started their PhD studies in September 2021. Find out more about their interests and research projects below.

Priya Chopra - University of Hertfordshire

Priya Chopra

Project: Airborne particle collection into single droplets to analyse and identify harmful aerosol constituents

Supervisors: Dr Ian Johnston, Dr Loic Coudron, Dr Laura Urbano, Dr Daniel McCluskey

Balancing between saving the cat and curiosity. Priya worked on projects involving ambient air pollution during her undergraduate degree in Physics (Hons.) from university of Delhi in India. Since then, she had a calling to work on the experimental front to explore physics and other sciences. She completed her master’s degree in Physics from University of Bonn in Germany. She learnt various characterisation techniques including low-temperature Fourier spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. Priya completed her master’s project in infrared study of pellets of spin-orbit entangled J=1/2 iridates with an FCC lattice which projected Kitaev model like systems.

Priya is currently engaged in working with the physics and engineering part of Aerosol Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire. She will be employing a combination of electrostatics and airflow to improve the aerosol collection technique. She will be familiarising herself with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and experimental validation to further develop the collection device. Priya loves the hip-hop music culture and is open to recommendations and jamming.

Prem Kumar Perumal - University of Bristol

Prem Kumar Perumal

Project: Dispersion behaviour and health effects of indoor aerosols

Supervisors: Prof. Dudley Shallcross, Dr James Matthews

As a Senior Researcher in the field of Molecular Microbiology and a Public Health Scientist in the UK Health Security Agency, Porton Down developed an interest in Aerosol Science during the recent Global Pandemic where the importance of understanding the dispersion behaviour of Indoor Aerosol is very essential in understanding the transmission of the disease indoors.

The specialist Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science and University of Bristol supported by EPSRC provided Prem an opportunity to understand aerosol physics and chemistry, learning from a team of renowned international experts and state-of-the-art facilities to further the research in Aerosol Science along with the gained expertise in Molecular Microbiology.

Global Population spends ~90% of their time indoors and Indoor aerosols may contribute to detrimental health effects. The current research will measure the physical and chemical nature of indoor aerosol pollutants produced within the indoor space and investigate the health effects of these aerosols during short/ long term exposure to human population.

Polly Foster - University of Leeds

Polly Foster

Project: Using microfluidic technology to measure and identify biological atmospheric ice-nucleating particles

Supervisors: Prof. Ben Murray, Dr Sally Peyman, Dr Mark Tarn

Prior to joining the CDT, Polly completed the first year of her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science where she discovered a passion for atmospheric science. This led to her converting to Meteorology and Climate Science, with the original aim to become a broadcast meteorologist. Throughout her degree she learnt about processes such as cloud formation and how clouds respond to the emission of aerosol particles, giving her an appreciation of factors that contribute to uncertainties in predicting future climate. This included studying how aerosol can act as cloud condensation nuclei and, more rarely, ice-nucleating particles (INPs), the seeds upon which water vapour or liquid can nucleate into water droplets or ice crystals.

Polly’s project looks at utilising new technologies to better understand how INPs can have a large impact on clouds and climate. Specifically, she will focus on quantifying and identifying biological INPs with microfluidic devices.

Joe Morris - University of Manchester

Joe Morris

Project: Air pollution and the heart

Supervisors: Prof. Holly Shiels, Prof. Sheena Cruickshank, Dr Cyrill Bussy

Joe completed his undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences from the University of Manchester in 2019 before undertaking a masters by research in biochemistry at the University of Nottingham.

Now, Joe is back in Manchester undertaking a project focussing on the cardiovascular impacts of a specific polyaromatic hydrocarbon, phenanthrene. This tricyclic compound is frequently found adsorbed to the surface of PM2.5 derived from the use or combustion of fossil fuels and is therefore a compound of concern for human health. Specifically, Joe is profiling changes in gene expression and immune response in cardiovascular tissue taken from mice exposed to both synthetic and tire-wear-derived phenanthrene over various time courses. This is done using techniques such as single nucleus RNA sequencing, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR. The project also includes a placement with industrial partner Emissions Analytics, who are leaders in testing the real-world particulate emissions released from tire wear.

Hao Zhang - University of Manchester

Hao Zhang

Project: Deep learning based classification and global analysis of aerosol

Supervisors: Prof. David Topping, Prof. Hugh Coe

Hao graduated from the Zhejiang University with a Master Degree in Energy and Environment Engineering. During his master, Hao carried out research on improving electrostatic removal of particles in industrial flue gas. Since then, Hao has developed a strong interest in aerosols, which led him to join the CDT.

Hao is currently conducting data science research on aerosols at the University of Manchester.

Jamie McLauchlan - University of Bath

Jamie McLauchlan

Project: Mechanics of Soft Aerosols

Supervisors: Dr Anton Souslov, Dr Adam Squires

Jamie completed an integrated master’s in Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh in 2021, during which he also studied for a year aboard at Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. During his master’s, he researched bacterial growth in microdroplets, combing modelling with practical biophysics experiments. 

His PhD at the University of Bath combines the areas of Soft Matter Physics and Aerosol Science to investigate how materials that we traditionally think of as soft in nature act as aerosols. This will involve both computational models of soft aerosols as they undergo dynamic interactions with each other and surfaces and experimentally testing models. With soft matter aerosols being relevant to many areas of research, from respiratory aerosols hitting surfaces to viscoelastic hot sand hitting jet engines, Jamie is looking forward to investigating potential future applications of his work. 

Alexander Mitchener - Imperial College London

Project: Nanoscale analysis of London pollutant particles and their interaction with airway epithelial cells

Supervisors: Prof. Alexandra Porter, Prof. Fan Chung, Prof. Mark Sephton, Prof. DK Arvind

Alexander’s project seeks to identify the regional variation in nanoscale composition of London’s particulate air pollution and to relate the toxicity of each component or mixture to the onset or exacerbation of clinical symptoms observed in healthy and asthmatic volunteers. This will be achieved by on-site capture and monitoring of the particulate matter (PM) before complete physiochemical analysis of the metallic and organic constituents. Nasal epithelial cells from volunteers will then be exposed to the characterised sample in vitro using an air-liquid interface (ALI) model of the airways to relate toxic endpoints to the compartmentalisation of particulates within the cells. Alexander will investigate the comparative efficiency of green barriers (leaves and bark) at sequestering atmospheric pollution against filters and examine the relationship between outdoor and indoor air-quality.

Skhathisomusa Mthembu - University of Hertfordshire

Project: Classification of microparticles using two-dimensional scattering data and machine learning techniques

Supervisor: Dr Chris Stopford

My name is Skhathisomusa Mthembu from South Africa. I am a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Hertfordshire, in the Physics, Engineering and Computer Science (PECS) department. I am supervised by Chris Stopford. My research lies in the intersection between environmental monitoring and machine learning. My research project, titled “Classification of microparticles using two-dimensional scattering data and machine learning techniques”, investigates the use of ML to classify aerosol particles using their scattering patterns, like a facial recognition algorithm for particles.

Aaron Varzdari Barber - University of Cambridge

Project: Transport and dispersion of non-exhaust emissions in the wake of a vehicle

Supervisor: Prof Holger Babinsky

Background: The development of cleaner combustions engines and electric vehicles means that non-exhaust emissions are now the dominant form of vehicle pollution in much of the developed world. Particulate matter air pollution can be particularly harmful to health depending on particle size and composition. Understanding the behavior of non-exhaust emissions will be crucial if we wish to see further improvements in air quality, and create sustainable urban environments.

 Project aims:

    • To experimentally investigate how non-exhaust (brake and tire dust) particulate matter is suspended and transported in the turbulent air around moving vehicles
    • To develop a mathematical model from the experimental results to predict emission dispersion
    • Investigate and evaluate the policy interventions available to reduce harmful non-exhaust emissions

Mahmoud Ahmed - University of Bath

Mahmoud Ahmed

Project: Environmentally Friendly Plasma Coated Pressurised Metered Dose Inhalers

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Jones, Dr Andrew Johnson

Mahmoud Ahmed graduated from The University of Nottingham with a Master’s in Pharmacy during which he developed a fascination with the development and innovation of pharmaceutical technologies. After graduating and completing his Pre-Registration in Community and GP Pharmacy, Mahmoud began pursuing a career in industry which brought him to work for Clinova which further nurtured and strengthened his interest in the developmental side of Pharmacy. This experience led him to return to academia and successfully apply for a PhD at The University of Bath.

Mahmoud’s PhD focuses on the surface characterisation and analysis of a new environmentally friendly plasma surface treatment process for inhaler canisters developed by H&T Presspart.

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Joel Ponsonby - Imperial College London

Joel Ponsonby

Project: Microscale dynamics and light scattering characteristics of ice crystals in contrails

Supervisors: Dr Marc Stettler

Before joining the CDT, Joel did an integrated master’s degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Bath. As part of his degree, he undertook an industrial placement year at the ISIS Neutron and Muon source, where he used neutrons to explore crystallization in cryoprotectant solutions. After graduating, he decided that he wanted to continue in research, which led him to apply for a PhD in atmospheric aerosol science.

Joel’s research will involve developing a better understanding of the mechanisms by which ice crystals form in contrails. This will help improve predictions of when contrails form and of their warming impact.

Benjamin Mignot - University of Leeds

Benjamin Mignot

Project: Modelling of Airborne Transmissions of Respiratory Droplets Containing SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Supervisors: Prof. Peter Heggs, Prof. Mojtaba Ghadiri, Prof. Kevin Roberts

Engineer in Fluid Mechanics with an interest in Health Sciences, Benjamin worked in a company performing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of inhaled particles in 3D models of respiratory airways extracted from CT scans, before starting his project at the University of Leeds.

There, his research aims to develop a theoretical model of the drying rate and solid formation of exhaled droplets after being released in the atmosphere. Subsequently, the use of CFD will investigate the dispersion of these dried solid particles in confined environments with different types of ventilation and sources of particles. This linked with infectivity measurements could provide a better understanding of the transmission of respiratory diseases such as Covid-19.

Gwen Lawson - University of Bristol

Gwen Lawson

Project: A New Approach to Aerosol Thermodynamic and Optical Properties Using Phase Shift Photoacoustic Spectroscopy

Supervisors: Dr Michael Cotterell

Gwen completed an integrated masters in Chemistry from the University of Bath which included a year in industry where she worked for Imerys Minerals in Cornwall. During this placement she undertook a project within the polymer department which encouraged her to pursue research, as a result she joined the CDT.

Gwen’s PhD project is at the University of Bristol working with Dr. Michael Cotterell and is titled ‘A New Approach to Aerosol Thermodynamic and Optical Properties Using Phase Shift Photoacoustic Spectroscopy’. Her research aims to develop a new technique working in collaboration with the Met Office to allow measurements of the optical properties of atmospherically relevant aerosols to be carried out.

Barnaby Miles - University of Bristol

Barnaby Miles

Project: The effect of environmental factors on the drying of aerosol droplets containing dispersed particles

Supervisors: Prof. Jonathan Reid, Dr Rachael Miles

Barnaby studied Chemistry at the University of Bristol (2016-2020) where he worked in the Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group (ACRG) for his final year project, modelling the tropospheric chemistry of non-acyl peroxy nitrates.

Having gained an interest in atmospheric chemistry and physics, Barnaby decided to join the ESPRC Aerosol Science CDT where he is investigating the impact of environmental conditions on the drying kinetics of multi-component aerosol droplets. Understanding the drying kinetics of these droplets is important for wide variety of industrial processes as well as being essential for our comprehension of the climate and airborne disease transmission.

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Isabel Quant - University of Bristol

Isabel Quant

Project: Interfacial Photochemistry in Aerosol Droplets: The Impact of Surfactants

Supervisors: Dr Bryan Bzdek

As an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, Isabel was introduced to the world of atmospheric and aerosol science. There they found a love for research and tinkering in a lab while working in the Donaldson Group, using an acoustic levitation set up to measure the pH and size of levitated droplets simultaneously. Wanting to explore atmospheric chemistry more during a Master’s degree, they joined the Wania group to investigate the use of passive air samplers and their efficiency at measuring concentration gradients of atmospheric gaseous elemental mercury.

Now at the University of Bristol, Isabel’s PhD in the BARC group will consist of exploring the surface tension of surfactant-containing aerosols and the impact this can have on aerosol chemistry, climate models, and cloud formation.

Samuel Hyman - University of Manchester

Project: How Particulate Matter Affects Lung Infection and Immune Response

Supervisors: Professor David Topping

Samuel returned to academia and completed an MSc in Environmental Chemistry and Health at The University of Copenhagen. During this time, Samuel focused on air pollution and the effects on health, gaining a wide range of skills in a multidisciplinary environment. This focus continues over into the PhD, where the plan is to complete a mix of computational work (environmental epidemiology using health data), and cellular biology (looking at the inflammatory response in in vitro models).

Abigail McConnell - University of Leeds

Project: Photochemical Processing of Atmospheric Aerosol

Supervisors: Prof. Dwayne Heard, Dr Daniel Stone and Dr Bryan Bzdek

I am part of the atmospheric chemistry group at the University of Leeds and my project focuses on the heterogeneous reactions that occur on the surface and within the bulk of atmospheric aerosols. I completed my MChem at the University of Manchester, then took a few years off study to travel. I started a job working for an environmental company testing soil samples in Australia. This job got me interested in environmental science, in particular, atmospheric science and led me to go back to studying.

Kelvin Risby - University of Cambridge
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EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science

University of Bristol
School of Chemistry
Cantock's Close
Bristol, BS8 1TS

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