Research Assistant/Associate

Imperial College London

Job description
Job summary

We are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated postdoctoral scientist to apply novel ambient mass spectrometry techniques for high throughput non-invasive cancer screening.

Metabolite assessment is commonly carried out through traditional liquid chromatography analytical methods coupled to mass spectrometers for detection and identification. These traditional methods, while providing detailed profiling information can be time consuming, due to extensive extraction and preparation steps required, and expensive and the spatial representation of metabolites throughout the tissue is lost. Therefore, there is an unmet need for spatially resolved metabolite profiling which enables investigation of highly heterogenous tissues such as tumours.

Throughout this project, we aim to assess metabolite distribution patterns in Glioblastoma (GBM) brain tumour samples and elucidate pathways between primary and recurrent disease, with the aim to link genomic disease profiles with their corresponding metabolite pattern. This will enable us to understand the heterogeneity of this disease in much greater detail as well as potentially predicting pathways of recurrence.

To carry out this research the post holder will use innovative ambient mass spectrometry techniques such as Laser Desorption Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (LD-REIMS), working with collaborators at the University of Leeds and Heriot Watt University to implement novel laser technology and translating findings into clinical tools with the potential of revolutionising the way GBM is treated. They will also perform in-depth statistical analysis and machine learning techniques using the mass spectrometry data and corresponding clinical metadata.

The post holder will be responsible for performing spatially resolved metabolic profiling using LD-REIMS methods, sample preparation, statistical analysis, data processing and implementing machine learning processes on data. The postholder will be expected to write up findings for publication and present their research at meetings and conferences.   

The Division of Systems Medicine is home to one of the largest centres for metabolic spectroscopy in the world. It hosts the MRC-NIHRNational Phenome Centre and the NIHR BRC Genomics Facility, and a staff of over 100 researchers actively working on metabolomics, using both spectroscopic and computational approaches.

In this MRC-funded project, awarded to Dr Lauren Ford, we will study the role of metabolism changes in GBM primary and recurrent disease, with the aim of using metabolomics to predict the nature of recurrence. The successful applicant will be heavily involved in implementation of mass spectrometry-based workflows, including sample preparation, instrument operation, data processing and biological interpretation. The post-holder will use novel mass spectrometry techniques to gather large datasets of biological information, determining how these are altered with disease stage and onset. This will involve metabolic profiling and enrichment of samples using experimental techniques. This project is aimed at developing novel instrumentation so trouble shooting and problem solving is a necessary skill. Clinical samples will be analysed using ambient techniques (REIMS, DESI). Cutting edge statistical and computational tools will be used to interrogate the data. Findings will be validated using molecular biology. The post holder will work closely with various teams across the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, including pathologists, data scientists and analytical chemists. The ideal candidate will have expertise in mass spectrometry/metabolomics, with a keen interest in uncovering underpinning biological mechanisms.

Duties and responsibilities

The postholder will perform metabolic profiling using novel instrumentation on biological samples. They will be responsible for sample preparation, mass spectrometry experiments, and data processing. Based on findings, the role will include biological mechanism hypothesis generation and biomarker discovery, which can then be further investigated. The postholder will be expected to write up findings for publication and present their research at meetings and conferences.  

Essential requirements
Further information

The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA),which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. For more information, see

The College believes that the use of animals in research is vital to improve human and animal health and welfare. Animals may only be used in research programmes which are ultimately aimed towards finding new treatments and making scientific and medical advances, and where there are no satisfactory or reasonably practical alternatives to their use. Imperial is committed to ensuring that, in cases where this research is deemed essential, all animals in the College’s care are treated with full respect, and that all staff involved with this work show due consideration at every level.Find out more about animal research at Imperial .


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