Carl Percival

Carl is Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry

"I enjoy teaching topics related to my current research and I love it when students come and see me after lectures - it is this one-to-one interaction that shows that students have really understand the topic."

Breath of fresh air

Chemicals entering the atmosphere come from a number of sources, but in broad terms are either from human activity or from the biosphere (natural systems). But what happens to these chemicals once in the atmosphere? If they are toxic they can affect the health of humans, animals and natural ecosystems, so we are trying to understand how pollutants are removed by the atmosphere.

My research group studies the sources and fate of pollution in the atmosphere. We try to simulate the atmosphere in the laboratory and investigate key chemical process. We also undertake field studies where we measure key pollutant markers in the atmosphere. Our field studies are carried out at ground station and on airborne platforms.

The data coming from our laboratory research are providing a essential basis for the interpretation of atmospheric behaviour and helping us to construct diagnostic and forecasting models of the atmosphere.

A recent highlight has been the first ever direct detection of the Criegee intermediate CH2OO. They were named after the German chemist Rudolf Criegee, who postulated their existence in 1949, but no one had even observed one until our study. We found that the Criegee intermediates react more rapidly than first thought and will accelerate the formation of sulphate and nitrate in the atmosphere, with major implications on climate change.

Face time for students

Teaching is a vital role played by academics. I enjoy teaching topics related to my current research and I love it when students come and see me after lectures - it is this one-to-one interaction that shows that students have really understand the topic.

I hope my enthusiasm for the topic comes across. I keep my teaching up-to-date by including key research findings within the field. Atmospheric science is a relatively new field and has a very dynamic (excuse the pun) research field. It is easy to fill lectures within the very latest thinking and current hypotheses.

My measure of success

I know I've taught my students well when they show a good understanding and appreciation of the subject and have a desire to find out more! I'm really pleased when they get a good job and the get the chance to do something that they really enjoy and get paid for it! 

What makes me smile

Research is great; everyday we have new problems to overcome. What is really good is coming up with an idea for a new instrument, designing it and then deploying it in the field or the lab. The results then come flowing in... and then you realise that there are problems with our current understanding of the atmosphere.

This is a real team game; I could not get anything done without an excellent bunch of students and post-docs. They do all the hard work and I owe them a lot! We are a small and friendly school and we all work together towards a common goal. A key thing within the School is the application of ground breaking analytical techniques to solve environmental problems.

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