Pluses and minuses of lipid mass spectrometry

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Stephen Blanksby
Director, Central Analytical Research Facility
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

External supervisors

  • Todd Mitchell, University of Wollongong


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. This project 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.

Research activities

This project provides an enthusiastic student a unique opportunity to engage in the exciting and fast moving field of lipidomics. Understanding the role of lipids (fats) in health and disease is a new frontier in understanding the bimolecular interactions that sustain life and has the potential for discovery of new approaches to diagnosis and treatment. In this project the student will work within the Mass Spectrometry Development Laboratory within the Central Analytical Facility; not only using state-of-the-art instrumentation but also building and modifying some of the most advanced analytical platforms currently available. The skills obtained in advanced instrumentation will provide a myriad of exciting career opportunities within both industry and academia. The project involves linkages with leading research laboratories around the world with strong potential for travel.


Lipids (fats) are an abundant and structurally diverse group of molecules with an equally divers 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 hitherto 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-values bio-commodities.

Skills and experience

The successful candidate will have an enthusiasm for the latest in technology. Students with a strong background in analytical or physical sciences will be well placed to succeed in this project.


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

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.