Personal profile

Research interests

Crossing the divide between the natural and the social sciences, my main research interests focus on the impact of tropospheric air pollution: 

Air quality science 

Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 310,000 premature deaths per year in Europe alone (WHO 2015), with associated societal, economic and environmental costs. My research uses cutting edge monitoring equipment to explore what is in the air that we breathe, and thus what we can do to reduce air pollution and improve health.  In particular, my research examines the reactive trace species of atmospheric pollutants, including 'ultrafine particles' (UFP), for which there is emerging evidence regarding their hazardous nature to human health. 

Perceptions of Air Quality 

In order to reduce local air pollution, it is important to understand how people perceive air pollution, and how to disentangle it in people’s minds from climate change.  Air pollution disproportionately affects the elderly, the young and those with pre-existing cardio-respiratory conditions.  My research examines the most effective ways to communicate information on air pollution, how this information is perceived, and what makes people listen. 

Scholarly biography

Dr Kirsty Smallbone is Head of School of the Environment and Technology.  Her day-to-day work concentrates on the leadership and management of the school, and in contributing to the wider leadership of the University.  Kirsty is a member of the IT Strategic Governance group and the TEF development group, and recently led the school to a Bronze Athena SWAN award. She has over 20 years of research experience with interests in the spatial and temporal distribution of tropospheric air pollution, strategies for its mitigation and, more recently, the perception of air quality and the environment. 

Dr Smallbone has attracted funds of over £1.5 million for her research, including grants from Local Government, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the European Union.  She has successfully supervised two Doctorate (PhD) research degrees and one MPhil research degree.  She has also developed an enterprise stream of funding and has been awarded £25,000 for a university innovation project to develop low cost but accurate particulate matter sensors. 

Dr Smallbone has authored over 12 peer-reviewed publications and more than 14 conference papers. She has presented her work to academics, practitioners, health professionals, politicians, school children and the general public. She has been invited to give keynote lectures throughout the UK and Europe.  Dr Smallbone passionately believes that research should be accessible and therefore has also written an education ‘pack’ for key stage 2 school children aimed at increasing awareness of the issues surrounding air pollution. She has also developed a toolkit for those with chronic respiratory illnesses and the elderly, widely used in the UK and in Europe. 

Approach to teaching

I am passionate about education and lifelong learningI believe in allowing students to develop their skills by the practical application of knowledgeI also encourage students to read extensively and take a critical approach to peer-reviewed and grey literatureFor example, in my Environmental Management module I ensure that students have the opportunity to undertake an environmental audit. In my Air Quality Management module, students get to design a mini research project to look, as a class, into an aspect of air pollution that they have identified as important and interesting. This then forms the basis of their assessment taskBeing able to assess your own progress in learning is something I see as crucial in encouraging students to grow in confidence in their own abilities. I’m also keen on data analysis and enjoy teaching students to enjoy, or at least understand, the how and the why of multivariate statistical analysis (regression being my favourite). 


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