Graduate studies in Chemistry

Number of Positions: 2-3

Anticipated Start Date: September 2019

The VandenBoer Group is currently searching for highly motivated MSc or PhD graduate students. The ideal candidate will have a strong background in Analytical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis, preferably with some training or experience in Atmospheric and Environmental Analytical Chemistry. Additional assets of interested applicants include experimental physics, electrical engineering, or computer programming. Interested students should contact Dr. VandenBoer at with their CV, academic transcripts, and contact information for two (2) professional references.

Positions are available for the detection of atmospheric reactive nitrogen species in indoor and outdoor environments. People spend up to 90 % of their time each day indoors where emissions from domestic or professional activities affect the chemistry and exposure of people in these atmospheres. Reactive nitrogen species are well-known catalysts in the degradation of urban air quality and formation of atmospheric particles, with potential to affect indoor air quality in a similar fashion. Research in the VandenBoer group is pursuing the development and testing of new analytical instrumentation and methodologies for quantifying the reactive nitrogen budget indoors. The purpose is to provide platforms that can be used safely in these spaces to widely survey the role of reactive nitrogen in indoor environments, while also providing selective detection of the various components of the reactive nitrogen pool. This work is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through the Chemistry of Indoor Environments Program. This program encompasses a passionate community of experts from around the world to provide insight into the chemistry controlling the composition of the indoor atmosphere, who meet regularly at workshops and international conferences such as the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate, Healthy Buildings, and the American Chemical Society. Our currently available projects include:

1. Synthesis of probe molecules for the quantitative detection of nitrous acid (HONO) with a passive sampling approach. Synthesis work will be done in collaboration with Dr. Chris Caputo in the Department of Chemistry at York University. Production and characterization of the HONO probe molecules’ selectivity and stability will be performed using smog chambers. Successfully designed probe molecules will then be used to detect HONO in indoor environments in comparison to traditional active sampling techniques. Students will gain experience in chemical synthesis, quantitative analysis, ultrahigh pressure liquid chromatography, UV-Visible spectrophotometry, smog chamber experiments, chemical kinetics, quality assurance, and field sampling.

2. Construction and testing of a real-time reactive nitrogen budget analytical platform. Detection of total reactive nitrogen will be pursued through the construction of a catalytic inlet to decompose a wide range of reactive nitrogen anticipated in indoor environments, including reduced, oxidized, and condensed phase species. Production of controlled quantities of target gases and aerosols will be performed using permeation ovens and scanning mobility particle sizing systems. Optimization of sampling and detection of mixtures will be performed using our smog chambers. This project will be supported by a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in instrument automation. The developed instrument will be intercompared with online techniques used in outdoor atmospheric chemistry and to quantify reactive nitrogen in indoor environments. Students will gain experience in analytical instrument prototyping, production of calibration standards for gases and aerosols, spectrophotometry, quantitative analysis, method validation, quality control, and field sampling.

Intercomparisons and proof-of-principle testing in both projects will be performed at the York University Air Quality Research Station, and at a variety of field locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area, southwestern Ontario, and further abroad. Students will be given the opportunity to perform these field measurements. Graduate students have a competitive funding package while pursuing their studies in the Department of Chemistry with many opportunities for scholarships and awards to support their work (

Home to 52,000 students, York University has an international reputation as a global, research-intensive university committed to interdisciplinary research, innovation, social justice, equity, and diversity. The Faculties of Science and Graduate Studies are committed to fostering student learning through innovative teaching practices and experiential education opportunities.  Students in the Faculties learn from and work with outstanding faculty members, and benefit from leading-edge research facilities. Faculty members collaborate with colleagues at other local institutions and around the world in academia, industry and government. The Faculty of Science was established in 1965, and has grown substantially over the years. It has earned a global reputation for cutting-edge research and innovation, housing one of the first atmospheric chemistry programs in Canada. The Department of Chemistry consists of 24 faculty members and about 60 graduate students, providing a large community of local expertise. The Department has research excellence and diversity across many disciplines and attracts funding from a broad array of agencies including NSERC, CIHR, Mitacs, and CFI. It is also home to YSciCore, a core analytical facility, offering a wide variety of state-of-the-science techniques for the physical sciences.