Rebecca Howe

University of Leicester


Developing a robust, compact laser-based aerosol sensing system


Dr Joshua Vande Hey

PhD Summary

My project will be focussed on aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere, using lasers to investigate different types of aerosols and designing a prototype instrument which is able to identify certain ones. Data collected by the prototype will be analysed to investigate its strengths and weaknesses, while data from more powerful instruments will be used to improve our understanding of aerosol impacts, both on human health and on the climate.

What inspires you

I was actually very much into other worlds before I started my degree! I was fascinated with astronomy and was certain I was going to work in the astrophysics sector. However in the last year of my degree I was able to do an atmospheric science project and decided I would rather work on understanding our own planet than try to find new ones!

Previous activity

Before my PhD I completed a master’s degree in Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Leicester. I’ve worked at the National Space Centre for two years, and have worked in the Physics department on their Open Days for three years. I also spent a couple of months doing an Arctic Science course at Umeå University in Sweden.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to work in science, and even though I probably didn’t really understand what it meant at the time, I always hoped I would grow up to get a degree and then a PhD. Throughout my degree I did three extended projects, which were designed to develop independent research skills. I really liked this aspect of the degree, so the end of my 3rd year I started looking at PhDs in astrophysics. One of my projects in my master’s year was an Advanced Study Project on the Black Carbon aerosol and how it affects the environment and atmosphere. I found that this interested me more than anything else in my degree, which was a bit weird as I was pretty far down the astrophysics route. At the end of the project I found that there was so much more I wanted to cover, so I undertook a short research project on aerosols before deciding I definitely wanted to do a PhD in this area.

Why did you choose CENTA?

The extra training and help CENTA provides to its students set it apart from the other PhDs I was looking at. It also happened to have exactly the kind of PhD I was looking for and at the university I was already at, which was a bonus!

Future plans

At the moment I hope that I will continue to work in this area of science after my PhD, however with the large skillset CENTA gives its students it may be possible for me to change areas again and work in something else environment-related.