The SWCF funds an air pollution researcher

Photo of Eleonora Nicolisi with display board explaining her reseasrch
The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation has helped PhD student at Kings College, London. Eleonora Nicolisi, whose subject is environmental pollution, attend a conference in Milan. Here is a brief report:

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation aided the financing of my travel and accommodation expenses to present my poster at the European Aerosol Conference (EAC) held in Milan 7th-11th September 2015.

I am a PhD student working on environmental pollution at King’s College London. Air pollution consists of a complex combination of gases and particulate matter (PM). PM is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye, others are so small they can only be imaged using an electron microscope. PM profoundly impacts human health, visibility, the ecosystem, the weather, and the climate. It is commonly divided into an organic carbon (OC) and an elemental carbon (EC) fraction.

OC may result from fossil fuel emissions, biomass burning or represent biological particles or plant debris whilst EC is a good tracer for emissions from fossil fuel combustion, especially urban emissions from road transport. Other sources, such as biomass burning, emit EC in much lower quantities and are relevant only in winter conditions in rural or residential areas, or during wild fire events.

The importance of these different sources, however, still cannot be estimated accurately and the different source apportionment methodologies have caveats, especially when quantifying OC, because of the limited knowledge of its molecular composition, atmospheric processes and characteristic emission profiles. My work aims to better understand the composition, sources and properties of OC.

In the work that I presented at the European Aerosol Conference (EAC) in Milan, I showed my first results. Filter samples were collected from rural, urban background and roadside locations in the London region. These samples were analysed in order to create a characteristic profile for each different site. After that, source samples such as petrol and diesel exhaust, biomass and solid fossil fuel were analysed to define a profile for each pollution source. Pollution sources and site profiles were compared to pinpoint similar characteristics between them and determine which pollutants most influence each kind of site: urban, rural and roadside.

Attending this conference provided me with an exceptional opportunity to learn and exchange leading-edge knowledge with other scientists. It also provided me with an opportunity to establish links with other researchers from around the world, and I was delighted to make the acquaintance of many individuals with research interests in common with my own. On a personal level, I found the conference highly productive. It was also an ideal setting illustrating the direct impact that scientific research can have on improving global human and environmental health.