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Exploring the Application of REIMS to Bovine Health Monitoring and Milk Quality Analysis

Project Description

Rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry (REIMS) is an ambient ionisation technique that allows for the analysis of a sample in <10 seconds without substantial sample preparation. This presents itself as an ideal technology to bring the power of mass spectrometry analysis to the dairy industry; holding potential for rapid, low-cost analysis of milk samples for a breadth of applications. This studentship will be a partnership between the industry body Agrisearch and Queen’s University Belfast to develop REIMS in three key areas of unmet need in the dairy industry. The focus will be developing REIMS as a platform for the identification of the pathogen for bovine mastitis to allow for faster and more targeted treatment of infection and reducing the requirement for the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. To explore the breadth of potential REIMS applications, two sub-projects will be pursued for examining milk quality and potential biomarkers for lameness in a longitudinal study of a dairy herd. This project will be well suited to students interested in the application of cutting-edge mass spectrometry techniques to solve important issues in the dairy industry and to gain experience in multi-disciplinary research. A budget for training in necessary skills is available as part of the project.

This research project will develop REIMS as a technological platform for the dairy industry. The student will work with the industrial partner (Agrisearch) to collect samples of milk from various dairy herds and build a library for experimental work. The project will combine laboratory work in microbiology and mass spectrometry within the new (opened 2019), purpose-built School of Biological Sciences building.

The four objectives of the proposed research project are:

• Method development of REIMS for diary milk analysis (10% of time): will form the first stage of the project and develop and robust and validated methodology for the analysis of milk samples using REIMS utilising a laser for sample heating and mobilisation. This will determine the optimal volume of milk for analysis, laser power and pulsatile parameters, and mass spectrometry operating conditions. This will further allow the student to develop skills and experience in data analysis workflows specific for REIMS.
• Bovine mastitis diagnosis and treatment management (50% of time): will constitute the main portion of the research programme. Bovine milk samples will be collected from dairy farms which are part of the Agrisearch network and through AFBI from cows with suspected and confirmed mastitis and healthy controls. The effect of novel methods for the control of mastitis, such as antimicrobial peptides, will be modelled and the effect on milk composition measured.
• Development of REIMS for milk quality analysis (20% of time): will explore the potential of REIMS to act as a rapid screening tool for the fatty acid and complex lipid composition of milk samples as a metric of milk quality in comparison to traditional gas chromatography mass spectrometry analysis. Potential applications to the detection of contaminated and/or adulterated milk will be explored.
• Discovery of markers for lameness detection (20% of time): will be conducted as a longitudinal study on a dairy herd with regular samples collected and analysed using REIMS. This cohort will be used to identify potential biomarkers that are indicative of potential lameness prior to observable clinical symptoms.

Start Date: 1 October 2020
Duration: 3 years

Academic supervisors will be Dr Simon Cameron and Professor Sharon Huws of Queen’s University Belfast. The industrial supervisor will be Mr Jason Rankin (AgriSearch).

Specific skills required by applicants:

Experience of working in a microbiology laboratory and basic bacteriology skills.
Willingness to learn mass spectrometry techniques, including REIMS, and associated methods for data analysis.
Knowledge of dairy industry within Northern Ireland.
Willingness to develop dissemination material and workshops for dairy farmers and to present research findings at appropriate conferences.
Desirable: access to car/transport that would enable farm visits and sample collection.

Funding Notes

Only UK/EU students are eligible to apply. Please read the full information on eligibility criteria: View Website

Not all applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship - please note the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

This project is a DfE-funded studentship supported by Agrisearch Ltd. and the student must meet the eligibility criteria for funding of DfE studentships. The studentship is subject to the signing of a relationship agreement contract between Queen’s University Belfast and Agrisearch Ltd. Until this agreement is signed, the offer of a studentship place will be subject to contract.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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