Dr Zongbo Shi PhD

Dr Zongbo Shi

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Atmospheric Biogeochemistry

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

The atmosphere and atmospheric processes interact with the biogeochemistry of the earth system. This in turn affects human and environmental health, air quality and climate. My research group addresses three areas of atmospheric biochemistry central to these impacts:

  • Sources and processes affecting air quality
  • Emission, processing and deposition of atmospheric nutrients and their impact on terrestrial and marine ecosystems
  • Interaction of nutrient and carbon cycles 

Our work combines field measurement, laboratory, simulation chamber, free-air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE), and numerical modelling approaches.  Our research delivers fundamental understanding of the surface earth system, providing knowledge to underpin sustainable developments.


  • PhD Environmental Sciences- China University of Mining and Technology (Beijing)
  • BA Geology – Anhui University of Science and Technology, China


Zongbo Shi obtained his BA in Geology at Anhui University of Science and Technology, China and PhD degree in Atmospheric Geochemistry at China University of Mining and Technology (Beijing). His PhD research concerned physicochemical characterisation and bioreactivity of airborne particles. He took up a research associate position at Tsinghua University studying sources and atmospheric processing of primary particles during fog and haze events in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Ningbo. He was then granted a JSPS fellowship and worked at Prefectural University of Kumamoto, Japan where he investigated the aging process of the Asian dust and its impact on their hygroscopic properties. Subsequently, he worked at School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds on a NERC-funded project where he combined the knowledge in geochemistry with atmospheric sciences and global aerosol modelling to understand the atmospheric processing of iron and phosphorous in mineral dust.

He joined University of Birmingham in 2011 as an independent NERC fellow, where he is currently a Senior Lecturer in Atmospheric Biogeochemistry. Dr Shi was the very first Birmingham Fellow.


BSc Environmental Sciences / Geography / Earth Sciences

  • EVS229 Environmental Pollution
  • EVS116 From molecules to materials

MSc Air Pollution Management and Control (as Programme lead)

  • Air pollution chemistry
  • Air Quality Management
  • Causes and Effects of Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollution Control Technology

Postgraduate supervision

 Funding is available annually through the NERC Central England Doctoral Training Partnership (CENTA) for UK/EU students; other sources of support are also available – please contact me if you are interested in studying for a PhD with us. 

Postdoctoral researchers are welcome to apply through a number of research fellowships schemes.

Current PhD Students (as primary or co-supervisor)

  • Aleksandra Kulawsa (2018.9-), Soil-plant interaction and nutrient cycling at BIFoR-FACE
  • Jinxiu Han (2018.9-), Organic aerosol characterization and sources in Beijing, Delhi and London.
  • Gongda Lu (2018.1-), Air quality in China from satellite observations
  • Clarissa Baldo (2017.9-), Iron biogeochemistry
  • Supattarachai Saksakulkrai (2017.9-), Sources and processes of PAHs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Dewi Komalasari (2016.4-), Urban green space and air pollution ( co-supervised with Roy Harrison).
  • Angeliki Kourmouli (2016.8-): Soil biogeochemistry and respiration at BIFoR-FACE
  • Steven Thompson (2016.9-): How does the formation mechanism of secondary aerosol affect PM2.5 toxicity in Beijing? (co-supervised with William Bloss)
  • James Brean (2016.9-): Source apportionment of particle number concentrations  (co-supervised with Roy Harrison)
  • Manna Alwadei (2016.9-): Composition and source apportionment of airborne particles in Saudi Arabia (co-supervised with William Bloss)
  • Dhoha Rul-shoud (2014.6-), Receptor modelling of volatile organic compounds in the UK

Completed PhD Students

  • Ruihe Lu (2016.9-2018.9): Novel organic molecular markers (CSC visiting studentship)
  • Xuefang Wu (2016.3-2018.6): Primary and secondary organic molecular markers (CSC visiting studentship, co-supervised with Roy Harrison)
  • Nick Davison (2013.9-2017.9): Atmospheric processing of airborne particles: implications for biogeochemistry and geoengineering
  • Zhe Tian (2013.9-2017.9), Receptor modelling of PM2.5 in Jinan, China
  • Adam Davies (2012-2016), Development of nanosensors for pH measurements in cloud droplets
  • Matthew Taiwo (2011~2013):  Receptor modelling industrial air pollutants (co-supervised with Roy Harrison)
  • Chao Zhang (2016.8-12): Impact of haze and dust particles on phytoplankton growth; visiting student from Ocean University of China (funded by Royal Society-NSFC )

PhD opportunities

Doctoral research

PhD title
Physicochemical properties and bioreactivities of PM10 and PM2.5 in Beijing air


Dr Shi’s group currently comprises three Postdoctoral Research Fellows, alongside a number of PhD students (see above) and MSc / project students. We contribute to the Air Pollution and Atmospheric Chemistry theme of the Environmental Health Sciences group at Birmingham.

Our work is supported by funding from UKRI, Royal Society, Natural Science Foundation of China and EU. Total research income since joining Birmingham: ~£12 m with ~£3 m as principal investigator.

Research interests include:

  • Sources and processes of atmospheric particles
  • Emission, processing and deposition of atmospheric nutrients and their impact on terrestrial and marine ecosystems
  • Impact of climate change on nutrient and carbon cycles


Iron dissolved by air pollution may increase ocean potential to trap carbon

Research grants  

  1. NERC Highlight Topic (overall PI): SEANA - Shipping Emissions in the Arctic and North Atlantic atmosphere. £1.9 m; 2018-2024
  2. NERC WM-Air (principal investigator for Strand I): West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme, £5 m, 2019-2024
  3. NERC APHH-China Newton Phase II (Co-I): Quantitative Attribution of Secondary Organic Aerosol in Beijing to its Precursors, £340k, 2020-2021
  4. NERC grant (PI): “Silicon-containing secondary organic aerosol – Si-SOA”, £50k, 2018-2019
  5. Newton Fund - Met Office CCSP-China (Birmingham PI): “Scoping Study on Air Quality Climate Service”, £37 k, 2017-2019
  6. NERC - MOES “An Integrated Study of Air Pollutant Sources in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR)” (CoI): £1.1 m, 2016-2020
  7. NERC-MRC-NSFC “Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health in a Chinese Megacity programme” programme coordinator (PI): £515k, 2015-2020
  8. NERC-MRC-Newton Fund (Co-I): “Sources and Emissions of Air Pollutants in Beijing (AIRPOLL-Beijing)”, £1.4 m, 2016-2020
  9. Royal Society-NSFC (PI) “Are sooty ships enhancing the primary productivity in the ocean?”: £12k, 2015-2017
  10. NERC-NCAS studentship (Co-I): “How does the formation mechanism of secondary aerosol affect PM2.5 toxicity in Beijing?”, ~75k, 2016-2019
  11. ATMOMED mesocosm project (PI on dust characterization), European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 228224, MESOAQUA: 2012
  12. NERC-RSC Analytical Science and Technology Studentship: “Nanosensors for pH determination in individual droplets and aerosol particles”, 71k, 2012-2016
  13. NERC new investigator grant (sole PI): “Are iron nanoparticles in wet deposition a potential source of bioavailable Fe to marine algae?”  £97 k, 2013-2014
  14. NERC Fellowship grant (sole PI): Novel approaches to the evaluation of iron and phosphorus availability in dust deposited to the oceans, £379 k, 2011-2015
  15. JSPS Fellowship: “Hygroscopicity of aged Asian dust”, ~¥11 000 000=~£8 3570, 2005-2007
  16. NSFC standard award (CoI): “Atmospheric processing of airborne particles during fog events”, 25 0000rmb, 2004-2007

Other activities

  • Fellow of High Education Academy
  • Member of Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member of European Association of Geochemistry: 
  • Member of NERC peer review college
  • Reviewer of US Natural Science Foundation (NSF), French ANR and Czech Science Foundation
  • Reviewer of Environmental Science & Technology; Natural Geosciences; Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmosphere; Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics; Chemosphere; Atmospheric Environment; Tellus-B; Environmental Chemistry etc.


Key publications

  1. Li, W., Xu, L., Liu, X., Zhang, J. Lin, Y., Yao, X., Gao, H., Zhang, D., Chen, J., Wang, W., Harrison, R.M., Zhang, X., Shao, L., Fu, P., Nenes, A., Shi, Z.*, 2017. Aerosol – pollution interaction produces more soluble iron for the ocean ecosystems. Science Advances, 3, e1601749
  2. Stockdale, A., Krom, M.D., Mortimer, R.J.G., Benning, L.G., Carslaw, K.S., Herbert, R., Shi, Z., Myriokefalitakis, S., Kanakidou, M., Nenes, A., 2016. Supply of bioavailable phosphorus to the oceans: understanding the nature of atmospheric acid processing of mineral dusts. PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.1608136113 
  3. Ito, A., Shi, Z., 2016. Atmospheric delivery of anthropogenic bioavailable iron from mineral dust and combustion aerosols. Atmospheric Chemistry Physics, 16, 85-99, doi:10.5194/acp-16-85-2016.
  4. Shi, Z. *, Krom, M.D., Bonneville, S., Benning, L.G., 2015. Atmospheric processing outside clouds increases soluble iron in mineral dust. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(3), 1472-74277, doi: 10.1021/es504623x.
  5. Taiwo, A., Beddows, D.C.S., Calzolai, G., Harrison, R.M., Lucarelli, F., Nava, S., Shi, Z., Valli, G., Vecchi, R., 2014. Receptor modeling of airborne particulate matter in the vicinity of a major steelworks site. Science of the Total Environment, 490, 488-500, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.04.118.
  6. Shi, Z. *, Bonneville, S., Krom, M., Carslaw K., Jickells, T., Baker, A., Benning, L., 2011. Dissolution kinetics of iron in the mineral dust at low pH during simulated atmospheric processing. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, 995-1007, doi:10.5194/acp-11-995-2011.
  7. Shi, Z. *, Krom, M., Bonneville, S., Baker, A., Bristow, C., Drake, N., Mann, G., Carslaw, K., McQuaid, J., Jickells, T., Benning, L., 2011. Influence of chemical weathering and aging of iron oxides on the potential iron solubility of Saharan dust during simulated atmospheric processing. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 25, GB2010, doi:10.1029/2010GB003837.
  8. Nenes, A., Krom, M., Mihalopoulos, N., Van Cappellen, P., Shi, Z., Bougiatioti, A., Zarmpas, P., Herubt, B., 2011. Atmospheric acidification of mineral aerosols: A source of bioavailable phosphorus for the oceans Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, 6265–6272, doi:10.5194/acp-11-6265-2011.
  9. Shi, Z. *, Woodhouse, M., Carslaw, K., Krom M., Mann, G., Baker A., Savov, I., Fones, G., Brooks, B., Drake, N., Jickells T., Benning L., 2011. Minor effect of physical size sorting on iron solubility of transported mineral dust, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, 8459-8469, doi:10.5194/acp-11-8459-2011.
  10. Shi, Z. *, Krom, M., Bonneville, S., Baker, A., Jickells, T., Benning, L., 2009. Formation of iron nanoparticles and increase in iron reactivity in the mineral dust during simulated cloud processing. Environmental Science & Technology, 43, 6592-6596, doi: 10.1021/es901294g.

View all publications in research portal