Sophie Mills

University of Birmingham


Future Climate: Future Pollen and Spores


Professor Francis Pope

PhD Summary

My PhD will investigate the effect of elevated CO2 on primary biological aerosol (bioaerosol) production, in particular pollen and fungal spores, in UK woodlands as part of the BIFoR FACE experiment at Birmingham ( Increased bioaerosol production has profound and potentially far-reaching implications for a number of important reasons. For example: bioaerosols transport genetic material of plants and fungi enabling colonisation in new habitats; allergenic bioaerosols can cause and exacerbate severe health issues afflicting a relatively large proportion of the population; and bioaerosols can also act as cloud condensation and ice nuclei, impacting our atmosphere and climate. This research will examine the influence of future CO2 levels on bioaerosol production and, in turn, contribute to informing climate models (e.g. JULES land surface model used at the Met Office.

What inspires you?

I owe much of my fascination of the natural world to David Attenborough’s (and many other) documentaries that I grew up watching obsessively. The natural world never fails to surprise and awe me in all its complexity and marvels, and it is always evident how much more we have to learn about it.

Previous Activity

I came to this PhD after graduating from an MChem at the University of Warwick. Previously I had done various research placements, including placements in Austria and South Korea, where I did mainly synthetic organic and polymer chemistry. I am now relishing the opportunity to dive into a new exciting field.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

As an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to gain various experiences working among researchers and PhD students. From these experiences, I had a good idea of what doing a PhD was like and I was eager to take on my own PhD in an area that excited me, which I wanted to learn more about and contribute to. I also feel doing a PhD and staying in academia provides many exciting opportunities for collaboration with many people across the globe.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

The CENTA studentship seemed like a brilliant opportunity, not only as a funded PhD position, but also with all the training that is included, and opportunities also to gain experience beyond and outside the field of your PhD. The projects offered seemed inspiring and relevant to current global issues, and also resonated with the area of research I was eager to go into.

What are your future plans

Through the various training days that CENTA provides, and the analytical skills and coding I will learn while doing my PhD, I am certain I will learn many valuable assets that will become beneficial for my future. I have thoughts to stay in academia after my PhD, or work at an institution involved in my area of interest, but I am keeping my mind open for any exciting opportunities I may discover in the future.