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Determination of toxic and essential elements (e.g. Mercury, Selenium, Arsenic, Cadmium) and their speciation and distribution in the environment and life sciences, using modern analytical methods.

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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

This project will be realised within the Trace Element Speciation Laboratory and the Marine Biodiversity Centre within the Chemistry department of the University of Aberdeen.

The aims of this project are to gain a better understanding of the toxicity of elements to biota, with a focus on Hg, As and Se.

The student will engage into research which involves the analysis of these trace elements in food and investigate the toxicity / essentiality within the aquatic cycle by using elemental and molecular mass spectrometry such as ICP-MS and ESI-MS, combined with elemental bioimaging using laser ablation ICP-MS.

The food commodities in question are likely to be seaweed and green plants, but also fish and marine animals, in cooperation with the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). Aquatic organisms seem to be heavily contaminated with arsenic and mercury, while selenium may alleviate toxicity. For example, plants may be grown under different environmental conditions and situations such as draught or increased salinity, which will be investigated in terms of uptake of trace elements into these plants.

This project is concerned with metal toxicity in food, and a variety of issues will be tackled, depending on the pathways chosen for investigation.

The main element we look at is mercury and its species – mercury has a very rich chemistry with a plethora of mercury species occurring in the environment and biological systems, and transformation of mercury species have been long studied. Here, we aim to unravel some of the toxic pathways of mercury, in combination with Selenium, which is both essential and toxic, but can also detoxify mercury intake. Similar routes can be tackled with Arsenic, which is another toxic element which is often present in food.

This project has some flexibility in terms of the exact work to be done, and applicants are encouraged to input their own ideas.

In terms of instrumentation, trace level analysis will be carried out using ICP-MS and AFS as main elemental analysers, while molecular speciation is done via HPLC-ICPMS or HPLC coupled with molecular mass spectrometry using Orbitrap and/or MaXis. ICP-MS for nanoparticle analysis is another field which will be featured.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry.

Essential Background: Chemistry, Environmental / Analytical chemistry.

Knowledge of: Analytical Chemistry with modern methods and instrumentation, Element Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry

Funding Notes

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


E. Bralatei, S. Lacan, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; Detection of inorganic arsenic in rice using a field test kit: a screening method; Anal. Chem., 87, 11271-11276, (2015)
Z. Gajdosechova, A. Brownlow, N.T. Cottin, M. Fernandes, F.L. Read, D.S. Urgast, A. Raab, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; Possible link between Hg and Cd accumulation in the brain of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas); Sci. Tot. Env., 545, 407-413, (2016)
C.C. Brombach, Z. Gajdosechova, P. Manorut, P.P.P. Kolambage-dona, M.F. Ezzeldin, B. Chen, W.T. Corns, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; Methylmercury varies more than one order of magnitude in commercial European rice; Food Chemistry, 214, 360-365, (2017)
Z. Gajdosechova, M.M. Lawan, D.S. Urgast, A. Raab, K.G. Scheckel, E. Lombi, P.M. Kopittke, K. Loeschner, E.H. Larsen, G. Woods, A. Brownlow, F.L. Read, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; In vivo formation of natural HgSe nanoparticles in the liver and brain of pilot whales; Scientific reports, 6, 34361; doi: 10.1038/srep34361 (2016).
1. Z. Gajdosechova, M.S. Boskamp, F. Lopez-Linares, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; Hg speciation in petroleum hydrocarbons with emphasis on the reactivity of Hg particles; Energy and Fuels., 30, 130-137, (2015)
M. F. Ezzeldin, Z. Gajdosechova, M.B. Masod, T. Zaki, J. Feldmann, E.M. Krupp; Mercury Speciation and Distribution in an Egyptian Natural Gas Processing Plant; Energy and Fuels, accepted manuscript DOI: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.6b02035

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 and EXACT PROJECT TITLE 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 Dr E Krupp ([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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