Dr Roland Leigh

Homepage of Dr. Roland Leigh of the University of Leicester. Research, Teaching and Enterprise activities and publications

photoSenior lecturer in Climate Change Adaptation Technologies and NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow

BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD (Leicester), MCIPS, MInstP

Tel: 0116 229 7711

Email: RL40@le.ac.uk

Office: Room 101, Michael Atiyah Annex

Office hours: 9-5pm, Mon-Fri

Personal details

BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD, MCIPS, MInstP

I am a senior lecturer in Climate Change Adaptation Technologies at the University of Leicester and a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow. My primary research focus is the development of novel techniques and instrumentation for the measurement and management of urban air quality. Since 2007 a major project has seen the advancement of imaging spectroscopic techniques for the measurement of nitrogen dioxide from using ground-based, airborne, or satellite platforms. Since 2009 I have held a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with the Natural Environment Research Council, which has assisted in the development of industrial collaborations which focus on the societal and economic benefit of scientific research. I have over 25 peer-reviewed publications and contributes to both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching at the University of Leicester.


I have the following teaching roles:

  • PA4970 - 4th Year Physics Project - Supervisor
  • PA1605 - 1st Year Option module on Space Technology - Lecturer.
  • CH5001 - MChem Final Year project - Supervisor
  • SURE summer studentships - Supervisor (most years).
  • Physics Challenge - Marker


A major part of my role at the University of Leicester is dedicated to the development of collaborative projects with industrial partners. These activities provide an additional creative driver for researchers, in addition to deriving economic and societal benefit from academic research, and providing the potential for additional income generation. Key examples include our airborne instrumentation programme with Bluesky International Ltd, providing a full-time joint position held by Joshua Vande Hey.


With an increasing global population, and a trend towards urbanisation, there is a strong motivation for improved systems for monitoring and managing our urban environments. My primary research interests are in the effective measurement and modelling of atmospheric composition in complex urban environments. To date, this has been primarily focussed on novel techniques for remote sensing of NO2, but is expanding to include urban modelling (CFD, and Gaussian), and in situ monitoring networks.

Satellite remote sensing of urban environments

Urban environments cover approximately 2% of the Earth's surface, and yet contain a major proportion of global societal and economic activity. Satellite instrumentation can provide signfiicant insights into the operation and development of our cities, with new technologies able to be applied to this challenge each year. I have wide-ranging research interests in satellite monitoring of urban environments, ranging from measurement of nitrogen dioxide emissions from combustion and other sources, to more holistic approaches to determining boundary layer structure and composition, and linkages to surface features.

Ground-based remote sensing of NO2 (CityScan)

Since 2001, I have been working on systems for retrieval of concentrations of NO2 using scattered sunlight and the DOAS technique. In 2007, a major new programme, CityScan, was initiated. This programme saw the development of three instruments capable of hemispherical imaging of nitrogen dioxide at 6-minute time resolution, with the possibility of using data from multiple instruments for gas-phase tomography. Further details on this project can be found in the CityScan pages here.

Airborne remote sensing

The first flight of our airborne NO2 imaging system was successfully completed on 28th February 2013, and provided exceptionally detailed maps of pollution over Leicester. This instrument is now undergoing further development in collaboration with our industrial partners, Bluesky International Ltd. Further details on this project can be found here.

We have also developed a night mapping camera, in collaboration with Bluesky International Ltd, which can be used to map light sources across cities. This has a number of research applications including optimisation of energy usage, assessment of ecological impacts of artificial light sources, and assessment of light pollution.

Modelling of urban environments

Air quality modelling activities started in the air quality group in 2011, and are becoming a major part of the research picture within my area. The requirement to understand the information content of individual measurements, and produce a coherent picture of the ambient conditions leads to the integration of substantial modelling activities to this research area. Two strands are currently being pursued within my research group. The first has a focus in Gaussian dispersion modelling, providing a rapid and efficient mechanism for 3D modelling of urban atmospheres. The second connected area is Computational Fluid Dynamics, which can provide a more detailed picture of urban dynamics and chemistry, but is computationally expensive and requires many free parameters to be evaluated and configured.

Networks of in situ air quality sensors

The University of Leicester has been operating ground-based sensors for air quality research for many years. Since 2013 we have been establishing a network of monitoring sites across Leicester, with a coupled research programme to improve the calibration and performance of a number of sensing techniques. Networks of small NO2 sensors are an active research area for my group at present.


A recent podcast recorded to explain some of our knowledge exchange work can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/university-of-leicester/dr-roland-leigh

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Contact Details

Tel.: +44 (0)116 252 3506
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 2770

Department of Physics & Astronomy,
University of Leicester,
University Road,
Leicester, LE1 7RH,
United Kingdom.


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