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Evaluation of the capabilities of 2-dimensional mass spectrometry in a variety of molecular systems

Supervisor: Pete O'Connor Sponsor: Verdel Instruments

2-dimensional mass spectrometry (2DMS) is a type of tandem mass spectrometry in which fragment ions are measured for each precursor ion. In traditional tandem mass spectrometry, also called MS/MS, each precursor ion within a mixture of molecular species must be individually isolated prior to fragmentation. If isolation does not occur or is incomplete due to experimental or instrumental limitations, then it is extremely difficult to determine which fragment comes from which precursor ion.

2DMS borrows an idea from 2-dimensional NMR in that it applies a sequence of pulses to periodically modulate each and every precursor ion through a fragmentation zone, and since the fragments are only created in that zone, they are created with peak intensity modulations at the modulation frequency of the precursor. Thus, 2DMS can generate MS/MS data for all precursor ions in a mixture of species, simultaneously, and still determine which fragment comes from which precursor with no need for isolations.

Once the modulation is done, the only thing remaining it to have a fragmentation method that produces a defined fragmentation zone. 2DMS is currently possible with ultraviolet photodissociation (UVPD) using a laser on both the Verdel and Warwick ICR laboratory, and using electron based fragmentation or infrared multiphoton dissociation in the Warwick ICR lab instrument. New fragmentation methods are being considered.

Verdel Instruments, Ltd., is a spinout company from the University of Warwick and has licensed some 2DMS technologies from the University. Verdel has currently designed and built a 2DMS instrument using a modified quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer, and we aim with this project to fully explore this instrument with a range of molecular compound classes and samples to show how 2DMS works in many different fields. This project will aim to generate this data, and from them Verdel will produce application notes to explain this technology to future customers and investors.

Additionally, this project will involve corresponding research in the University of Warwick Ion Cyclotron Resonance laboratory at Milburn house where the 2DMS technology has been developed.

The key points of this project will be:

  1. Learn how mass spectrometers work at the most fundamental, instrumental level in order to fully understand the experiment.
  2. Learn how the data is acquired in the Verdel and Warwick ICR instruments, and how to convert the raw data into mass spectra.
  3. Learn how to interpret mass spectra, to extract the maximum chemical knowledge from the samples.
  4. Test 2DMS on both the Verdel and Warwick ICR instruments for a variety of compound classes using a variety of fragmentation methods. Compound classes will include:
  5. Lipids
  6. metabolites (either biological or environmental)
  7. oligosaccharides and glycans
  8. peptides
  9. proteins
  10. DNA/RNA
  11. complex mixtures such as biofuels and petroleum.

The student will be expected to acquire data for these types of samples, understand the resulting spectra, and present these results in posters, presentations, and papers. It should be straightforward to achieve a number of publications from this work.

Please direct informal enquiries and requests for further information to Professor Peter O’Connor, email: 

Start date: 28 September 2020

This position has now been filled.