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Determination of arsenic, cadmium and selenium speciation in environmental and biological samples using mass spectrometry

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Feldmann
    Dr E Krupp
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

The mobility and toxicity of elements are depending on their molecular form or whether they occur as nanoparticles. In this project we would like to study how selenium interacts with arsenic or cadmium in paddy soils where rice is growing. The first step is to develop new analytical methods involving HPLC coupled to ICP-MS and ESI-MS, bioimaging using LA-ICP-MS and methods to determine nanopartciles. Secondly, microcosm experiments will be set up in a greenhouse and the different rice cultivars will be sampled and then analysed by using standard techniques and the newly developed methods.
Aim is to characterise the processes which govern the flux of those elements from the soil/fertilizers to the rots, shoots into the grain. Thirdly the outcome of the microcosm experiments will be compared to samples from the market.

Toxic elements such as arsenic and cadmium should be monitored in the environment and how they enter the food chain. In terrestrial environment such as the soil/plant interaction is of interest especially in rice fields or in the marine environment how arsenic is biotransformed from planktons to seaweeds or to fish and cetaceans. Due to new food regulation in the EU for maximum levels of arsenic and cadmium in rice, especially baby rice, there is a need to study who the levels of those toxic elements in the grain can be influenced and here the interaction of biomolecules such as glutathione and phytochelatins are very important. For this reason new methods need to be developed to identify cadmium/arsenic interactions with those biomolecules using world-class mass spectrometry. (The combination of HPLC coupled simultaneously to ICP-MS and ESI-qTOF-MS has been developed in our lab and it is still one of three set ups world-wide). This technique enables the identification and quantification of these metal biomolecule interactions. Other methods such as FFFF or single particle –ICP-MS will be used to investigate for nanoparticles. Additionally we have developed the use of laser ablation coupled to ICP-MS in the combination with the use of stable isotopes the dynamic bioimaging technique which we will use in microcosm experiments. We have the access to many rice cultivars and we could grow rice in different soils and experiment with different agricultural techniques. There is scope to develop analytical methods for monitoring of these toxic compounds which can be used in low-income countries (see Bralatei et al.2015).

Hence, this project is very versatile for those interested in the terrestrial environment and interested in using sophisticated analytical instrumentations.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry.
Essential Background: Analytical chemistry, environmental science, ICP-MS
Knowledge of: Elemental determination, biochemistry, biology, mass spectrometry, environmental chemistry

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only

PLEASE NOTE: In addition to tuition fees this project will require Additional Research Costs of £5,000 per annum which will need to be met by the student.


BL Batista et al. Journal of Experimental Botany (2014) 65, 1467-1479.
S Musil et al. Analytical Chemistry (2014) 86, 993-999.
FA Aborode et al. Metallomics (2015) 7, 1056-1066.
DS Urgast et al. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care (2014) 17, 431-439.
AH Petursdottir et al. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (2015), 407, 8385-8396.
E. Bralatei et al. Analytical Chemistry (2015), 87, 11271-11276,

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Chemistry. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Chemistry, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR, EXACT PROJECT TITLE AND INDICATE YOU WISH TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ELPHINSTONE FUNDING ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 2 projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor Feldman ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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