A big data virtual investigation of chemistry in the upper troposphere

Qualification: PhD

Department: School of Physics and Astronomy

Application deadline: 29th January 2020

Start date: 28th September 2020



Dr Eloise Marais  Email eloise.marais@le.ac.uk

Project Description

The global upper troposphere (8-12 km overhead) is a profoundly important part of the atmosphere that impacts climate, air quality and the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Key to its influence is reactive nitrogen. There are large gaps in our understanding of the processes that govern the dynamics of reactive nitrogen in the global upper troposphere that impact our ability to make accurate estimates of human-caused changes in climate and air quality. 
Unprecedented measurements of reactive nitrogen from NASA research aircraft campaigns and from a recently launched ESA satellite mission provide more comprehensive information about the composition of the global atmosphere than ever before. 
The successful candidate will apply machine learning techniques to aircraft and satellite observations of reactive nitrogen to identify distinct spatial and seasonal patterns in reactive nitrogen in the global upper troposphere and interpret the new information this provides using the global 3D GEOS-Chem chemical transport model. 
The successful candidate will join the European Research Council (ERC) funded UpTrop team (http://maraisresearchgroup.co.uk/uptrop.html) led by Dr Eloise Marais at University of Leicester and also be part of the international GEOS-Chem User Community. 

A prerequisite for this studentship is a quantitative background and some computing experience. No advanced computer programming skills needed, as training in this will be provided by the University of Leicester Research Computing staff and by the lead supervisor who has over 10 years’ chemical transport modelling experience. The project includes opportunities to travel to local and international conferences and science meetings and GEOS-Chem User’s Meetings in the US, Europe or China.


E. A. Marais et al., Nitrogen oxides in the global upper troposphere: interpreting cloud-sliced NO2 observations from the OMI satellite instrument, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 18, 17017-17027, 2018, https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/18/17017/2018/



2 x 3.5 year fully funded studentships including :

• Tuition Fees at UK/EU rates*
• Annual stipend of £15009 (fixed for all years)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

*International candidates will need to provide evidence they can fund the difference between the Home/EU and International tuition fee. The full international fee is £20,825 so the difference will be approx £16,500 pa the actual amount will be confirmed when the UK/EU 2020/21 fees are known)

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent in a relevant subject

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

For application enquiries please email pgrphys@le.ac.uk  or telephone +44 (0) 116 252 3570

For project enquiries please email Dr Eloise Marais eloise.marais@le.ac.uk



How to apply

How to apply

Please submit your PhD application using the Apply button below and select the September 2020 intake

Include the following with your application:

  • 2 academic references - if you have letters of reference upload these in the section provided or include the contact details of referees in the referee tab including email addresses.  Please ask your referees to respond to our reference request as quickly as possible.
  • Statement of interest
  • CV
  • Undergraduate transcripts to date
    • If you have completed your undergraduate degree, we will also require your undergraduate degree certificate
    • If you have completed a postgraduate degree, we will also require your transcripts and degree certificate

In the Proposal section please enter the project title and supervisor's name

In the funding section please enter Marais 2020

If we do not have the required documents by the closing date, your application may not be considered for the studentship.

Interviews are expected to take place:

Wednesday 26th February 2020 – Face to face
Thursday 27th February 2020 – Skype only
Friday 28th February 2020 – Skype only
Monday 2nd March 2020 – Skype only
Tuesday 3rd March 2020 – Skype only
Wednesday 4th March 2020 – Face to face



UK/EU and International applicants are welcome to apply.

International applicants must be able to fund the difference between UK/EU and International fees for the duration of study.