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Studying for a PhD in Environmental Metabolomics

Martin Jones describes his PhD in environmental metabolomics
MARTIN JONES: Metabolomics really is a field of growing global importance. It gives young researchers the chance to address complex, but really interesting, problems using really advanced analytical instruments. And it was for this reason that I chose to do a PhD in metabolomics. I enjoy working with and developing the methods with these systems. And ultimately, it’s nice to be able to apply your methods to a complex biological problem. I’m sure that the skills that I’ve learned during my metabolomics PhD will serve me well on my future career path. And I’m sure I’ll be doing more metabolomics as its areas of application continue to expand.
My research is applied within an environmental context. I work with the organism Daphnia magna, which is otherwise known as the water flea. It’s a freshwater model organism and a model organism for ecotoxicological and human health research. What I’m trying to understand is the composition of this organism at the molecular level. I want to know more detail than has ever been performed for any other biological system. What metabolites this organism produces. This is a really difficult challenge. The metabolites share common core structures and, as such, have very similar physicochemical properties. And this makes it very difficult to assign, with any certainty, an annotation or an identity to a metabolite of interest in metabolomics studies.
So really what I’m trying to do is to compile the most complete metabolome of any organism ever created.
Our group already perform many high-throughput screening experiments to understand at the molecular level what is happening to Daphnia upon exposure to, for example, a toxicant. These are really useful experiments, but often it’s difficult to translate the statistically meaningful signal perturbations into biological knowledge. This is known as the metabolite identification problem, and it’s as old as the field of metabolomics itself. I’m hopeful that with the research I’m performing during my PhD we’ll be able to generate a huge knowledge base before undertaking these really useful experiments. And then more frequently be able to translate perturbations into biological understanding and, ultimately, to understand the interaction, for example, between an organism and its environment.

Martin Jones describes his reasons for conducting a PhD in metabolomics, the application of his research within the environmental sciences and how his research will impact in the future.

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Metabolomics: Understanding Metabolism in the 21st Century

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