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Enhancing clinical metabolomic studies through improved laboratory and bioinformatics tools

   Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology

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  Prof Warwick Dunn, Dr Andrew Davison, Prof R Goodacre  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed and funding is available.

Metabolites play many important roles in humans including in metabolism of food, synthesis of proteins and DNA, in signalling and regulation of biochemical mechanisms and in the development and progression of diseases. Metabolites can be studied in humans to define the phenotype at the metabolic level (metabolic phenotype), to understand biological mechanisms related to human health, disease and ageing, to identify targets for disease treatment and to identify biomarkers for disease diagnosis or responsiveness to disease treatments.

The global study of metabolites is performed applying untargeted/semi-targeted or targeted metabolomic techniques for discovery (untargeted/semi-targeted) and translation (targeted). The quality of data collected and applied, the number of metabolites studied, how the chemical structures of metabolites are identified and how data is biologically interpreted are all important concepts in metabolomics and areas requiring further developments and standardisation.

This PhD has an open objective to enhance one or multiple laboratory and/or computational tools applied in metabolomics studies of humans. Examples include (1) development of metabolite quantification in untargeted/semi-targeted studies; (2) reducing time required for sample analysis; (3) development of target lists for semi-targeted studies; (4) enhancing the use of data for metabolite identification and (5) developing and applying remote sampling techniques for biofluid sample collection (e.g. dried blood spots).

You will be immersed in a multi-disciplinary research environment at the University of Liverpool. The supervisors view a PhD primarily as a training opportunity and both will provide training in a range of areas including (1) Personal development (e.g. personal effectiveness); (2) Metabolism, metabolomics, analytical chemistry and bioinformatics; (3) Study design and operation in clinical studies including ethical considerations.

The project is suited to a biology/biochemistry/chemistry student with either a first or upper second BSc/MSci degree (or equivalent) as a minimum.

For any enquiries and to express your interest in applying for this studentship, please contact Professor WB Dunn on: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The project is open to both UK, European and International students. It is UNFUNDED and applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application, the project and applying for funding. Assistance cab be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes. Details of costs can be found on the University website:
A £2000 ISMIB Travel and Training Support Grant may be available to new self-funded applicants.


1. Dunn, W.B., Broadhurst, D.I., Atherton, H.J., Goodacre, R. and Griffin, J.L., 2011. Systems level studies of mammalian metabolomes: the roles of mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Chemical Society Reviews, 40(1), pp.387-426.
2. Hughes, A.T., Milan, A.M., Davison, A.S., Christensen, P., Ross, G., Gallagher, J.A., Dutton, J.J. and Ranganath, L.R., 2015. Serum markers in alkaptonuria: simultaneous analysis of homogentisic acid, tyrosine and nitisinone by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Annals of clinical biochemistry, 52(5), pp.597-605.
3. Nash, W.J. and Dunn, W.B., 2019. From mass to metabolite in human untargeted metabolomics: Recent advances in annotation of metabolites applying liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry data. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 120, p.115324.
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