Dr Sean Semple

Dr Sean Semple

Senior Lecturer

Dr Sean Semple
Dr Sean Semple

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 438473
The University of Aberdeen Respiratory Group, Institute of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen,
Room 29.04a, Child Health, Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZG
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Research active expert in human exposure science with interests in occupational epidemiology, tobacco control and the health effects of air pollution. Program of translational research focused on air quality measurement and interventions relating to second-hand smoke, biomass fuel smoke and workplace inhalation hazards. Supervised 12 successful PhD students with a further 4 in progress. Author of over 150 research publications cited over 2500 times, and editor of text-book ‘Monitoring Health Hazards at Work’ (translated in to Chinese, 2012). Current H-index of 28 and chief investigator or co-investigator on research projects from the MRC, European Commission (H2020) and the Chief Scientist’s Office (Scotland).

Research program has had a significant impact on public health policy to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke in Scotland. Chief Investigator of the BHETSE study which was seminal in examining how Scotland’s smoke-free law impacted on air quality and workers’ health. This work was adapted for use in England and Wales, used as an international example of how to examine the effects of legislation designed to improve public health, and is now cited in MRC guidance for the evaluation of natural experiments.  Serve on the Scottish Government’s Research and Evaluation Working Group on Tobacco Control. Worked closely with Jim Hume MSP on a Parliamentary Member’s bill to prohibit smoking in cars carrying children, and influential on the recent Scottish Government media campaign to reduce the number of children exposed to second-hand smoke at home by 50% by 2020.

Wide range of international collaborations with academics, policy makers, public and third-sector organisations including: Action for Smoking & Health Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, University Putra Malaysia, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Imperial College London, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Highlands, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, the British Lung Foundation and Makerere University. Extensive media engagement with research work covered by many national and international news agencies.

Future research strategy focussed on examining ways of delivering novel interventions using air quality feedback to reduce exposure to particulate pollution and improve respiratory health.



Research Interests

Sean Semple Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in the Respiratory Group and is one of the co-founders of the Scottish Centre for Indoor Air research. Sean has worked at the University since 1998 on a wide range of research projects examining occupational and environmental exposures and their impact on health. 

Sean supervises a number of postgraduate research students at MSc, MPhil and PhD level with recent students studying subjects including quantifying occupational exposure to second-hand smoke in Malaysia and a study looking at the importance of ingestion of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. He is external examiner for both the BSc and MSc Environmental Health courses at the University of Strathclyde and is an external examiner of PhD candidates from 5 other international universities.

Sean has a multi-disciplinary background (medical science, biological NMR, occupational hygiene, exposure assessment, public health, and epidemiology) enabling his involvement across a wide portfolio of the Respiratory Group's work.

In addition to acquiring over £2M in grant funding for over 15 projects, Sean has published over 60 scientific papers, letters, reports and book chapters, with one of his early papers winning the prestigious 10,000 euro ECETOC young scientist of the year award in 2003.  This award enabled him to travel to Kuala Lumpur to foster links with the emerging occupational hygiene sector in Malaysia- he has since served as the British Occupational Hygiene Society Ambassador to Malaysia; visiting there regularly to deliver short courses and supervise students.

Sean has presented work at a wide range of national and international scientific conferences and his work has been cited over 1300 times and his current h-index is 21.

Over the past 10 years Sean's work has focussed on inhaled hazards including second-hand tobacco smoke and biomass fuel smoke. He played a key role in the evaluation of smoke-free legislation introduced in Scotland in 2006 and in England and Wales in 2007, publishing several papers describing the impact of smoke-free laws on air quality within indoor spaces. Sean is also particularly interested in measurement of exposure to smoke produced when using biomass fuels for cooking and lighting in less-economically developed countries. He has worked in Uganda, India and Malawi. This work also involves collaborations with a large number of international universities and partners.

Sean contributes to his professional organization, the British Occupational Hygiene Society and is an Assistant Editor of the international journal the Annals of Occupational Hygiene. He was  chair of the Scientific Committee for the international conference OEESC 2009 and also serves on the organising committee for Inhaled Particles XI.

Sean is based within the Respiratory Group at the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital and also at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh where he collaborates with scientists working within the Centre for Human Exposure Science.


Research Grants

Bonelli P, Semple S, Turner S, Amos A, Ritchie D. Study to Encourage Parents to Stop Smoking (REFRESH). Big Lottery Foundation 2009. £499,566.

Semple S. 2011.Validation of a new air quality monitor for smoking interventions. Scottish School of Public Health. £5,673.

Smith J, Matthews R, Balana B, Glenk K, Mugisha J, Nabusiu Walekhwa P, Bechtel K, Sabiiti E, Baggs E, Orskov B, Yongabi K, Strachan N, Avery L, Semple S, Davidson G, Tumwesige V. 2012. The Potential of Small-Scale Biogas Digesters to Improve Livelihoods and Long Term Sustainability of Ecosystem Services in Sub-Saharan Africa. Department for International Development, UK. £199,896.

Sheikh A, Devereux G, Numatov U, Tagiyeva-Milne N, & Semple S. 2012. Volative Organic Compounds and risk of asthma and allergy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational and intervention studies. 2012. Scottish Govenrment- Chief Scientist Office. £32,645.

 Semple S, Galea K. Smoke-free legislation in England: Air quality in bars 5 years on from implementation. 2012. Department of Health. £23,967.

Turner S, Semple S. Parental attitudes and smoking. 2012.Scottish School of Public Health. £3,000.

Turner S, Semple S. Use of indoor air quality measurements as an avenue and adjunct to motivational interview in smoking cessation.  Jan 2013- May 2014. NHS Grampian and Scottish Government. £109,000.

Walsh G,  Devereux G,  Turner S,  Semple S. The Effect Of Nanoparticles On In-Vitro Airway Epithelial Cell Function In Children And Adults With And Without Asthma. 2013-4. Scottish Government- Chief Scientist Office. £174,237.

Cowie H, Reis S, Semple S, Riddell K. Urban Air Quality Citizen Science Programme. Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. March – October 2013. £28,720.



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