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Stefan Swift


I am a PhD research student based in the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories (WACL) at the University of York working with Dr Jacqui Hamilton and Prof James Lee, investigating into organic nitrogen species found in particulate matter in Beijing. I previously completed my Masters in Chemistry also at the University of York, in which I worked with Prof Lucy Carpenter, investigating into the ozone uptake coefficient at the sea surface. I am originally from Brixham in South Devon and my time outside of chemistry is spent in studying the bible, languages, practicing piano and saxophone, teaching chemistry, maths and English as a foreign language (abroad in China and Belgium), baking, and supporting Torquay United!


First, Masters in Chemistry (MChem), University of York, 2016

Mandarin Chinese, Languages For All Level 3, University of York, 2016

Grade 8 Piano, 2012

Memberships and Fellowships

St Michael Le Belfrey Church, York

Research interests

Atmospheric Chemistry and Air Quality

Teaching interests

Chemistry, Maths and English as a Foreign Language

Project title

Air Quality and Particle Pollution in Beijing, China: Investigating the role of organic nitrogen species.



Leeds York NERC SPHERES Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)

Project outline

With a population of almost 22 million inhabitants, the pollution epidemic experienced in Beijing and the increasing evidence that poor air quality leads to significant impacts on human health, is causing widespread concern with regards to the sheer number of people exposed to these substances. The involuntary and ubiquitous exposure to materials such as particulate matter (PM), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone, have been linked to respiratory and heart diseases, as well as premature mortality and it is known that emissions from anthropogenic sources contribute significantly.

Organic Nitrogen (ON) compounds are ubiquitous in the atmosphere, and they are often some of the most carcinogenic and toxic components found in PM. In high temperature environments such as those created by smoking, cooking and other combustion sources, and through the oxidation of amines, nitrosamines can be formed - a particularly toxic and carcinogenic compound type that can be found in particulate matter. These substances are predominantly known to induce oesophageal, pancreatic, oral and lung cancer, therefore it is imperative to extend the field of knowledge on the sources of these carcinogenic and toxic materials, with a focus on PM.

ON found within particulate matter is one of the most carcinogenic and toxic materials to humans persisting at ground level and therefore will be the focus of this project. Due to the increasing evidence of ON contributing substantially to PM, it is of upmost importance that the nitrogen components within the PM are quantified and characterized.

In collaboration with over 50 UK and Chinese scientists, the sampling of these key atmospheric constituents will be carried out through the Air-POLL project which is scheduled to take place in 2016.  Focusing on the concentration measurements of ON, the cancer risk as a result of the public’s exposure will be examined.

The principal objectives of this project constitute:

  • The use of comprehensive two dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) to determine the ON composition in particulate matter. Samples will be obtained through field experiments in the Air-POLL project in Beijing, in conjunction with local Chinese scientists.
  • By accessing the most extensive data set ever collected with regards to Beijing’s tropospheric gas and particle composition, the factors that control the quantity of specific species of ON will be surveyed.
  • The lifetime human cancer risk from exposure to Beijing’s troposphere will be estimated. After retrieving and analysing data sets from the Air-POLL study, the most prominent sources of ON will be distinguished and strategies suggested to allow for measures to be put in place to implement a reduction in harmful emissions.

To date, the difficulty in measuring ON has been due to their low abundance in samples with very complex particle matrices. Using an innovative method developed by research fellows at the University of York, the ON in PM components will be assessed using high-resolution GCxGC coupled to a nitrogen specific detector, allowing for both high sensitivity and selectivity.


Presented a poster on my masters project “The Activity of Ozone at the Ocean Surface”, at the 24th International Symposium on Gas Kinetics and related Phenomena in July 2016.

Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory

General enquiries:

Postal address: Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, Innovation Way, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD