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Transferring mass spectrometry from the laboratory to the clinic for metabolic biomarkers in human health and disease

   Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology

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  Prof Warwick Dunn, Prof Simon Maher  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Please note, applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed and funding is available.

The study of metabolism in human health and disease is typically performed in a research laboratory with high-specification scientific instruments applied to measure the abundance of metabolites in complex biological samples including blood, urine and saliva. Mass spectrometry is one of the routinely applied scientific instruments and uses the mass of metabolites as a criteria for detection. These measurements provide information on hundreds to low thousands of metabolites but use mass spectrometers which are heavy and therefore not portable and require high electricity consumption.

There is a requirement to construct, validate and apply portable mass spectrometry or ion mobility instruments in the clinical environment to apply assays which measure a small number of clinically important metabolites. Portability is the key concept and requires a low weight instrument that can be transferred by hand and does not require a high electricity consumption. These portable instruments can be transferred to the patient in hospitals and bedside measurements performed. Alternatively, these portable instruments can be used in health buses which allow measurements to be collected in the community and not in a hospital.

The PhD research project will be focused on the assessment of current technologies,  development of robust protocols for the sampling of human biofluids and their subsequent analysis using portable mass spectrometry or ion mobility instruments and the testing in the clinical environment.

You will be immersed in a multi-disciplinary research environment at the University of Liverpool within two different schools. 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 and bioinformatics; (3) Mass spectrometry.

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

Applications should primarily be made to the Lead Supervisor Prof Warwick Dunn - [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 can 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. Suraritdechachai, S., Charoenpakdee, C., Young, I., Maher, S., Vilaivan, T. and Praneenararat, T., 2019. Rapid detection of the antibiotic sulfamethazine in pig body fluids by paper spray mass spectrometry. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 67(10), pp.3055-3061.
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