Study level



Vacation research experience scheme


Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Chemistry and Physics

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Stephen Blanksby
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Infrastructure)/Principal Research Fellow (Mass Spectrometry)
Division / Faculty
Division of Research and Innovation

External supervisors

  • A/Prof. Todd Mitchell, University of Wollongong
  • Prof. Scott McLuckey, Purdue University (USA)


Lipids (fats) are an abundant and structurally diverse group of molecules with an equally diverse array of functions in cellular biology.

This project will develop new analytical technologies - based on advances in mass spectrometry and ion chemistry - that enable the analyst to identify and quantify individual lipids present at low concentrations in biological mixtures comprising many thousands of distinct molecules.

These new capabilities will drive the discovery of unknown lipids and map the complex biochemical pathways through which they are formed. Future translation of these discoveries will uncover new lipid-based markers for disease and support the development of lipids as high-value bio-commodities.

Research activities

Lipids are among the most structurally diverse of all the biomolecules and thus deciphering their many functions requires bio-analytical technologies capable of uniquely identifying and quantifying individual molecules in a milieu of many thousands of analogues. Mass spectrometry is the pre-eminent technique for contemporary lipid analysis but is challenged by the preference of certain lipids to ionise with a polarity that affords sensitive detection but does not permit detailed structure elucidation.

In this project you will develop advanced instrumentation capable of on-demand polarity switching of ionised lipids such that the detection and interrogation of molecular structure can take place in the optimal charge state.


This research will deliver:

  • new technologies for lipid detection and structural characterisation
  • comprehensive descriptions of molecular diversity in critical lipidomes
  • discovery of new lipids with sufficient molecular detail to describe their formation and fate
  • identification of potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for future biomedical developments
  • young researchers trained to world’s best practice in advanced mass spectrometry to supply growing demands in research and industry.

Skills and experience

You will find project engaging and challenging if you have:

  • a background in analytical chemistry (including instrumentation)
  • a background and/or interest in lipid biology and metabolism.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.