Dr Jim McQuaid

Dr Jim McQuaid


Jim joined the School of the Environment in April 2000 from the School of Chemistry in Leeds where he did both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies and some initial postdoctoral work. His research is primarily focused upon observations of the composition of both gas phase and aerosol species in the atmosphere. Over the last 25 years he has participated in a large number of research campaigns both ground-based and airborne including ACSOE, EXPORT, SAFARI2K, NAMBLEX, ITOP, RICO, DABEX/DODO, AMMA, EUCAARI-LONGREX, OP3, VOCALS, AMISA, Fennec, SAMBBA, ICE-ACCACIAICE-D, ACAO, DCMEX and M-PHASE. He was extensively involved in the conversion of existing instrumentation (WAS & VACC) and design and development of new instruments (PAN & ORAC) for deployment on the UK 146 atmospheric research aircraft (FAAM). For a long time he also received funding as a NCAS (National Centre for Atmospheric Science) aircraft scientist. Jim is a member of the Mid-Life Upgrade Scientific Advisory Group for the UK’s FAAM 146 research aircraft.

Jim was the project atmospheric scientist for the Black and Bloom project which is a major consortium grant funded by NERC to understand how particles and microorganisms on the surface of the Greenland Icesheet affect its albedo. Black and Bloom has lead to a major EU funded Synergy Programme, Deep Purple and Jim continues to work with this group providing atmospheric inputs into their science.

Jim was the 2018 Distinguished Lecture for the European Association of Geochemistry. This program aims to introduce and motivate scientists and students located in under-represented regions of the world to emerging research areas in geochemistry. The distinguished lecturer is selected each year based on a combination of outstanding research contributions to geochemistry and the ability to clearly communicate these contributions to a broad audience.

More locally, Jim is part of the University's Living Lab for Air Quality which will improve our knowledge of air quality to help shape and inform the university Landscape Strategy and Travel Plan. He is a member of the Leeds City Council Air Quality and Health Board which guides the city’s future strategy to tackle air pollution issues in the city.  Jim is part of the NIHR funded BiB Breathes project which is currently using low costs PM2.5 sensors to assess the exposure of primary school children across the implementation of a Clean Air Zone in Bradford. He works extensively with Leeds City Council including a Research England funded programme to deploy a network of low cost PM2.5 sensors across the city.  

Jim’s work during the summer of 2023 was documented in this article .


Research interests

  • Observations of Atmospheric composition & instrumentation
  • Low cost sensors
  • Arctic Albedo
  • Ice Nucleating Particles
  • Urban air quality and pollution
  • Biomass burning
  • Tropospheric Ozone
  • Long range transport of pollutants
  • Impacts of wildfires
  • Science communication


Jim regularly presents research and science to schools, both primary and secondary on a range of topics including air quality, the truths of climate change, research fieldwork.

Media Activities

During September/October 2013, Jim sailed across the US from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the Pacific coast in Monterey, California in a 60-metre-long airship as one of the team for an exciting new BBC series. Operation Cloud Lab: Secrets of the Skies is 'one of television’s most ambitious experiments on the atmosphere' (BBC Press release). He also provided scientific and technical advice to the production team for the programme which was broadcast in July 2014 (Episode1 & Episode2). He has also made clouds as part of Richard Hammond's Wild Weather series and has contributed to BBC iWonder (cloud weighing and perfect sunrise). He was a regular contributor to the weekly Paul Hudson Weathershow which was broadcast across local radio stations in Yorkshire (BBC York/Leeds/Sheffield/Humberside/Lincolnshire) for many years.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Studies of tropospheric chemistry in urban and remote areas, University of Leeds
  • MSc, Smog chamber studies of the kinetics of atmospheric oxidation reactions, University of Leeds
  • BSc, Chemical Sciences, University of Leeds
  • Chartered Chemist (RSC)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member of NERC Peer Review College
  • Member of Swedish Research Council Review Group
  • Member of the American Geophysical Union
  • Member of the UK Aerosol Society
  • Member of the European Geosciences Union

Student education

At undergraduate level Jim is an Academic Personal Tutor (SOEE1444). He leads 3rd year module Atmospheric Pollution: Causes, Impact and Regulation (SOEE3431). He teaches on 1st year Environmental Science for Environmental Management (SOEE1460), 2nd year Atmospheric Pollution from Local to Global Scales (SOEE2481) and the Blencethra fieldcourse which is part of SOEE2701. He also teaches on our new MSc Climate Futures programme.

Jim supervises research projects across both our final year Environmental Science (BSc) and the Climate and Atmospheric Science (MRes) programmes.

Research groups and institutes

  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosols
  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>