Infant Health: Neonatal Monitoring

The aim of this MSc work is to explore the potential of volatilomics as a tool for neonate health monitoring in the NICU.

VolMon is an Science Foundation Ireland fully funded 2 year MSc studentship programme commencing October 2018 within the INFANT Research Centre. The aim of this MSc work is to explore the potential of volatilomics as a tool for neonate health monitoring in the NICU. The study of volatile organic compounds produced by the skin or breath, could represent a non-invasive rapid diagnostic route to gain insight into the health of the neonate. It could allow for monitoring of the skin microbiome as it becomes established, and be a potential tool for screening for certain metabolic and infectious diseases. The project will focus on sampling and analysis methods, working with clinical partners to demonstrate the validity of the approach.

The skin is becoming recognised as a wealthy source of information regarding human physiological status because of its role in eliminating waste products such as sweat and volatiles. New minimally-invasive and non-invasive approaches to monitor various components of skin are emerging as exciting and potentially disruptive clinical tools. This research will involve the study of an innovative, non-contact mode of health diagnostics suitable for neonatal monitoring in incubators called volatilomics. Volatilomics, an emerging subset of metabolomics, is the study of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by living organisms. Analysing biological VOCs from the skin (or the breath) could represent a non-invasive rapid diagnostic route to gain insight into the health of the neonate. This type of analysis for example could allow for a non-invasive approach to monitor the skin microbiome as it becomes established, aswell as a potential tool for screening for certain metabolic and infectious diseases. VolMon intends to explore and understand the potential for volatilomics as a tool in neonate health monitoring.

The programme of research is highly disciplinary in nature where the nature of the research will focus on sampling and analysis methods for human skin volatiles. The analysis will focus on gas chromatography – mass spectrometry approach as well as exploring sensor technology (i.e., electronic and colorimetric sensor array detection). The research will involve working with INFANT clinical partners to demonstrate the validity of the analysis approach, as well as on aspects of data analytics and signal processing in collaboration with INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics.

mum and baby feeding NICU

How To Apply

Candidates ideally should have a 1.0 or 2.1 Honours BSc in Chemistry. A focus or experience in chromatography, mass spectrometry and analytical chemistry in general in the first instance would be ideal. Sensor development and materials chemistry may also be of benefit in supporting the development for the sensing platforms.

The project will be based full-time at DCU. Some short visits to INFANT  in UCC will form part of the programme.

A stipend of 18,500 euro per annum and a cover for registration fees will be available for the successful applicant (non-EU members may apply but additional fees are paid by the candidate).  The position is funded for 4 years with an allowance for travel and publication costs. 

The successful applicant will be asked to proceed through the Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC, http://www.pac.ie) for formal registration.

Interested candidates should submit:

  1. a covering letter detailing their interest and reasons for applying for this position 
  2. (a CV (including the name and contact details of 2 referees)
  3. a summary of their relevant research experience to date

The above documents should be emailed to infantjobs@ucc.ie on with "MSc Studentship VolMon Study" in the subject line or before the closing date of 11 July.

For more information contact Assoc. Prof Aoife Morrin aoife.morrin@dcu.ie

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