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Essentiality of arsenic for seaweed: the set-up of microcosms and the development of new analytical methods

Project Description

Arsenic has so far not been identified as essential and it is in general be toxic to most lifeforms. This project will investigate whether arsenic can be essential or not to seaweeds (marine macroalgae). The project involves the set-up of microcosms and the development of new analytical methods all based on the combination of HPLC coupling to ICP-MS and ESI-MS for the identification of the different molecular forms of the arsenic. Hence, the project is a combination of analytical chemistry with environmental science or biochemistry.

Arsenic is notorious for being a poison to all life forms, however it is rather highly concentrated in the seawater and algae, especially brown macroalgae like kelp take up enormous amounts of arsenic and transform them into different molecular forms. This project will investigate whether arsenic can be beneficial or is even essential for seaweed. As we kow from now that arsenic can occur as organoarsenicals such as arsenosugars and arsenolipids in seaweeds and we have seen that the concentration of those arsenicals change if the seaweed is exposed to oxidative stress or nutrient deficiency (see Petursdottir et al. 2015). This project will look into the design of new experiments and will utilise newly developed analytical methods (see Raab et al. 2013) using sophisticated mass spectrometry. (The combination of HPLC coupled simultaneously to ICP-MS and ESI-qTOF-MS has been developed in our lab and it is still one of three set ups world-wide of this kind). This technique enables the identification and quantification of these metal biomolecule interactions.

We have the access to many brown seaweed species which we have shown to be grown under axenic conditions in microcosms.

Hence, this project is very versatile for those interested in the marine environment, biochemistry of a high profile element such as arsenic and interested in using sophisticated analytical instrumentations.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry.
Essential Background: Analytical chemistry, biochemistry, environmental science
Knowledge of: Elemental determination, biochemistry, biology, mass spectrometry, environmental chemistry

Funding Notes

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

PLEASE NOTE: In addition to tuition fees this project will require Additional Research Costs of £5,000 per annum which will need to be met by the student.


AH Petursdottir et al. Environmental Chemistry (2015), 13, 21-33.
M Perry et al. The Lancet (2015), 385, S80.
MR Perry et al. PNAS (2013), 110, 19932-19937.
KO Amayo et al. Analytical Chemistry (2013) 85, 9321-9327.
A Raab et al. Analytical Chemistry (2013) 85, 2817-2824.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Chemistry. Formal applications can be completed online: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply. 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 Professor Feldman ([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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