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Development of an ultrafast fibre integrated picosecond infrared laser (fPIRL) system for the mass spectrometric analysis of tissues and cells

   Department of Metabolism, Digestion & Reproduction

  Dr Robbie Murray,  Thursday, September 30, 2021  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

London United Kingdom Cell Biology Medical Physics

About the Project

As part of the Stratified Medicine Graduate Training Programme in Systems Medicine and Spectroscopic Profiling (STRATiGRAD)  we are looking to recruit a PhD student to focus on a Mass Spectrometry based project in partnership with Waters Corporation, to start in October/Nov 2021.

STRATiGRAD PhD opportunities are funded in partnership with the MRC, NIHR and various industrial sources. The programme embodies a “blue-skies” approach to research with an analytical and modelling focus. The programme is led by a management team including Profs Zoltan Takats, Gary Frost and Dr. Fiona Pereira. The students will be supervised by a team of high calibre scientists including an industrial co-supervisor. Each project will have a common training core and with elements of translatable skills.

The Division of Systems Medicine is exceptionally well-equipped to allow students to understand the molecular origins of diseases and use them as targets for diagnostics and therapy.

Applications are invited for a PhD project exploring the following theme:

Theme 2: Development of an ultrafast fibre integrated picosecond infrared laser (fPIRL) system for the mass spectrometric analysis of tissues and cells

Mid-infrared (MIR) light sources (2.94 µm) can be used to cleanly and efficiently ablate biological tissue due to the resonant absorption of the O-H stretch, for subsequent analysis using mass spectrometry (MS). Commercial sources are available, but have long pulse durations (nanosecond) not ideal for ablation, and poor transverse beam qualities which result in large focussed beam sizes. This project will develop an ultrafast fibre integrated picosecond infrared laser (fPIRL) system, with the ideal characteristics for laser desorption ionisation mass spectrometry. Employing picosecond pulses will enable damage-free ablation leading to faster and easier tissue MS identification. The high beam quality inherent to fibre lasers will also allow diffraction limited focusing of the beam onto samples, enabling, for the first time, single-cell resolution mass spectrometry imaging, effectively bridging the resolution gap between optical microscopy and current laser desorption MS techniques. As well as single-cell MS imaging, the MIR pulses will be delivered to in-vivo targets using advanced MIR fibre delivery technology, including specialist polymer fibres and hollow core anti-resonant ring fibres. This project is an exciting opportunity to work in an inter-disciplinary team at the interface of cutting-edge photonics (Dr. R.T. Murray - Physics) and world leading tissue and cell identification techniques (Prof. Z. Takats – Surgery and Cancer). The technology developed will be applicable for a wide range of applications ranging from high-throughput sample analysis to in-vivo tumour identification in surgery.

Applicants must be Home students with leave to remain in the UK, and should hold or expect to obtain a Master’s degree in a relevant scientific discipline, as well as a first or upper-second class honours science degree or equivalent. All Imperial College PhD entry requirements must be met (see

To apply, please send a covering letter stating your project preference, full CV and contact details of two referees, one of whom must be academic, to Dr Fiona Pereira citing the theme to which you are applying.

The deadline for applications is 30/09/21. Short-listed candidates will be informed by email.

Funding Notes

Awards will cover tuition fees at the Home student rate, a tax-free stipend of £17,285 per annum and project consumable costs.

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