WACL hosts a team of academics, research and technical staff as well as a number of PhDs and MScs by research.

Job vacancies

All job vacancies are advertised through the University of York jobs website.


Summer Placements 2024 

Five paid studentships will be available in Summer 2024 for a six week period during the summer break with the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories (WACL).

The student will be integrated into the WACL group, attending meetings, and will be expected to present their work at the end of the placement. Further information on each studentship can be found below.

Payment is at Intern 1.1 - £12.00 per hour. The placement duration is for 6 weeks, 29.6 hours per week (equivalent to 4 days). Placement period is between 17th June - 30th August 2024, to be agreed with the Supervisor.

Students should be studying for a degree in Chemistry, Environment, Mathematics, Computing, Engineering, Electronics, Physics or Biochemistry, have completed their second year of their undergraduate degree and expect to obtain a first or upper second.

Please submit your applications via this google form,. You will receive a follow-up email where you will be asked to upload your CV and answer two questions explaining why the project and atmospheric science appeal to you, and what skills you hope to develop while doing the project. If you do not receive this follow-up email within 30 mins of submission, please email will.drysdale@york.ac.uk.

Deadline for applications is 4pm on 28th March 2024 with interviews taking place from mid April - May 2024.

Projects available:

Identification of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions from water bottle flavour pods

Water bottles that utilise scent pods to enhance the taste of your water are a popular new craze among under 18s. Flavour pods placed on the water bottle are designed to simulate taste without actually adding anything to the water - scented air bubbles are carried to the nose while drinking and the brain interprets this as flavour. In order for the product to work the pods are formulated with volatile fragrance compounds, and potentially other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as solvents, to aid scent delivery. There are a range of different branded and unbranded pods available to purchase in the UK, and most claim to include `natural flavour`. However, their formulations, and thus VOC emissions, may differ depending on quality and price. This project aims to determine which VOCs are emitted from the scent pods and at what concentrations, evaluating the differences across both the scents and brands available and how they might affect indoor air quality and health.

Headspace Q-TOF GC/MS will be used to determine the types of VOCs emitted, and SIFT-MS to measure the emission rates and calculate concentrations. Whilst these are standard methods used for analysing product VOC emissions, the student will be tasked with adapting them for the flavour pods. Data processing and visualisation will then be carried out using programming software R.   

Supervisors Dr Amber Yeoman and Ruth Purvis  

Uncovering the Composition of Restaurant Plumes

Interest in indoor air quality has grown due to the significant time we spend indoors. Cooking is a notable indoor activity that releases a substantial amount of pollutants. The emissions from cooking can directly impact indoor air quality and contribute to outdoor air pollution, especially in urban areas packed with restaurants.

Investigating the composition of cooking emission plumes is vital for understanding indoor pollution's contribution to the ambient. Cooking emissions are known for being rich in oxygenated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (Klein et al., 2016), and organic particulate matter (PM) (Mohr et al., 2009). While numerous laboratory experiments have thoroughly characterised gas and PM from cooking, only a limited number of studies have investigated cooking emissions as a source of outdoor pollution in urban environments.

The objective of the summer project is to identify gas and PM in restaurant plumes. The summer project is part of INGENIOUS, a UKRI-funded project. A mobile laboratory equipped with instruments to measure VOCs and PM will be stationed near restaurants to analyse plume composition from the vent. Measurements will be conducted during lunch, dinner, and restaurant closing times to observe the impacts of different activities.

The summer student involved in the project will receive training in air pollutant observation and data analysis. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to engage in discussions with scientists and academics about the project and broader air pollution studies. The training and engagement will provide the student with research and communication skills valuable for their career planning.  

Supervisor Sari Budisulistiorini  

Developing a web-application to visualize low-cost air quality sensor data

The QUANT project was a long-term study to assess commercially available low-cost air quality sensors for their ability to provide reliable atmospheric measurements and to identify areas where such technology can be used to augment the UK’s air pollution monitoring capability. 43 commercial devices from 14 companies were deployed at three UK urban environments over a 3-year period from December 2019 to October 2022, with each device measuring multiple gas and particulate pollutants. The resulting large dataset is further compounded by many devices having multiple parallel calibration algorithms.

The study has produced insights into low-cost sensor behaviour that have been published in papers (https://amt.copernicus.org/preprints/amt-2023-251/) and contributed to a PAS (https://standardsdevelopment.bsigroup.com/projects/2022-00710). There are many findings waiting to be uncovered in this immensely valuable dataset, but analysing the data remains a challenge due to its scale.

An interactive web-app (shiny.york.ac.uk/quant) has been developed in the R programming language with the aim of aiding exploration of the raw data and providing easily digestible summaries of the main conclusions. It is currently in a proof of concept state and needs dedicated development time from a motivated candidate. No prior experience with web development is required, although familiarity with R and a willingness to learn would be a bonus. The student would gain experience in R, web-development, data science and visualisation, version control, as well as an awareness of the benefits and limitations of commercial low-cost air quality sensors.

Supervisor Stuart Lacy

Atmospheric photolysis - impacts on air quality

Photolysis is a key process in atmospheric oxidation processes, controlling radical production rates, lifetimes for many atmospheric organics and the efficiency of ozone production cycles. Photolysis is therefore a critical component to our understanding of air quality, chemistry and climate. Despite this importance, photolysis rates for many atmospheric species remain unmeasured.
In this project you will determine photolysis rates for some carbonyl-containing organics. Techniques will include: UV-vis. spectroscopy to obtain absorption spectra under quasi gas-phase conditions and (out of lab) calculations of photolysis rates, structure activity relationships, and photochemical ozone creation potentials to estimate air quality impacts.
You will work alongside experienced researchers at the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories and no prior training in any specific technique is required.
Key reference: Mapelli et al. 2023, doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-282.  

Supervisor Terry Dillon 

Exploring the chemical drivers of ozone deposition to the ocean

Tropospheric ozone, found in the lowest 10-15 km of the atmosphere, is a secondary air pollutant. It contributes significantly to the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere, impacts human health, and poses a threat to crop security. Dry deposition to the ocean surface serves as a significant sink for ozone, influenced by both physical processes and chemical reactions. While the chemical reaction of ozone with iodide is reasonably well understood, the impact of organic compounds on deposition remains an important area of investigation. In particular, fatty acid surfactants are of interest due to their dual effect: unsaturated fatty acids enhance deposition by reacting with ozone, while saturated fatty acids reduce deposition by acting as a physical barrier.
In this project, laboratory studies utilising a heterogenous flow reactor will be conducted to better understand the mechanism of ozone uptake to the oceans. The experimental setup involves passing gaseous ozone over an aqueous synthetic seawater solution, with uptake to the solution being determined through kinetic-based analysis. Various suspected chemical drivers will be added to the seawater solution, and their relative contributions to deposition will be evaluated. This project offers experience in a variety of laboratory techniques, as well as the opportunity to develop programming skills through the subsequent analysis. These results will aid our understanding of the chemical processes facilitating ozone deposition to the ocean surface, ultimately leading to more accurate constraint of the global tropospheric ozone budget.

Supervisors Lucy Carpenter and Charlotte Stapleton

Development of Standardised Benchmarks for Atmospheric Trace Gas Analysers

Atmospheric measurements of trace gases are essential to evaluate air quality and climate, informing policy decisions and increasing our understanding of the negative effects of climate change. In the field of atmospheric chemistry there is a wide range of instrumentation available to measure the composition of the atmosphere. The critical species that drive the chemistry are usually present at low concentrations, but can still span many orders of magnitude e.g. in the remote atmosphere you might measure nitrogen oxide (NO) concentrations between 1 part per trillion to 10 parts per billion.

There are many techniques available for measuring the same species, e.g. NO is routinely measured using chemiluminescence via its reaction with O3, and can measure NO2 via conversion - but newer technologies, such as laser induced fluorescence, boast substantially lower detection limits and faster time resolutions. Other methods such as CAPS or ICAD are also used - these are methods that directly detect the presence of NO2, and as such can detect NO by conversion.

Instrument manufacturers provide specifications for these instruments, such as limit of detection, zero drift and time resolution, but sometimes do not provide all of them. Additionally, as an instrument is used the performance and therefore these statistics can degrade through wear impacting on the quality of the data and interpretation.
It is not easy to compare two instruments and quantitatively state which one is performing better. This project will begin the process of producing standard tests covering: data required, automation routines and a software package to calculate the statistics. It will focus on instruments measuring NO and NO2 but with an aim that the statistics derived will be applicable to other measurands (e.g. O3 and SO2).

The project will see the student conduct research to determine which statistics should be focused on through literature and work with instrument operators in WACL, lab work to develop the testing procedures in WACL’s instrument calibrations lab, and build on data handling and software development skills using the R programming language.

Supervisor Will Drysdale will.drysdale@york.ac.uk Carys Williams

Contact us

Jenny Hudson-Bell
WACL Research Administrator

+44 (0)1904 322609
Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of York, Heslington, York  YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.