Cristina Ruiz Villena

University of Leicester


A constellation of small satellites for air quality monitoring: design, prototyping and scientific concept development


Prof. Roland Leigh and Prof. Paul Monks

PhD Summary

The main objective of the project is to work on a new instrument that will measure NO2 in the atmosphere with unprecedented resolution. NO2 is a very hazardous pollutant that is produced mainly from petrol combustion, and it is a very good indicator of the quality of the air. This gas has a huge impact on the economy and on the respiratory health of thousands of people each year. The ability to monitor it is key, for example, for planning mitigation strategies.

What inspires you?

I love nature and I have always had curiosity to know more about the world we live in (and other planets too!). Our natural environment is extraordinarily unique and amazing; understanding how it works is not only exciting, but also crucial for our own survival and the conservation of our planet.

Previous Activity

I did a master’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering in Spain, worked three years in the software industry (air traffic management software testing, and Bluetooth firmware testing and development), and did an MSc in Space Exploration Systems.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

I am passionate about knowledge and learning, especially (but not limited to) science. I realised that the jobs I had did not fulfil my thirst for knowledge, neither did they stimulate my brain. I wanted to do research so that I could contribute to enhancing our knowledge, and because I have always found it really exciting.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

I first learned about it when I looked at the project description (i.e. my PhD project). The project looked really interesting and surprisingly well-suited for my skills, and I already knew and very much liked the supervisor. Two other things that really attracted me to the project were the sponsorship by Thales Alenia Space UK and the CENTA training programme.

What are your future plans

The University of Leicester is well known for its research in space and instrumentation, so I feel really lucky to be able to study here, because it means I will be trained to a high standard. I would like to stay in research when I finish my PhD, although I don’t know whether it will be the public or the private sector.