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Development of a Laser-Based Infrared Analyzer for Protein in Human Milk (Ph.D. Thesis)

Motivation

"Human milk provided by healthy, well-nourished mothers represents the best food available for infants born at term to healthy mothers." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2016) 646–662


While research suggests that maternal nutrition directly influences human milk (HM) compositions, there exists very little evidence to guide the clinical practitioner. Part of the reason for this lies in the fact that HM is a complex analyte that needs expensive and cumbersome analytical chemical procedures. Specifically, for protein and long-chain fatty acid composition analysis no easy to use benchtop instrument exists.
Recent advances in laser-based infrared spectroscopy of biological solutions have put into reach a more rapid, facile analysis of HM. In collaboration with an international team of clinicians, instrument developers and machine learning experts, the Lendl lab strives to develop such an analyzer to help clinicians better understand the impact of maternal nutrition and human milk compositions on the development of infants.

Scope of the work

Within the framework of the H2020 project Nutrishield, the student will be working in the Lendl lab at TU Wien together with a multi-disciplinary team of PhD students and PostDocs. The thesis encompasses the selection of impactful target analytes in HM, development of a sampling protocol and a lab prototype for milk. Development of the prototype will be supported by Quantared Technologies. The prototype will then be evaluated and bench-marked against legacy methods. The work also includes collaboration with international partners within the Nutrishield project, as well as stays abroad to test the analyzer in a clinical setting.

Requirements

  • Master in Physics, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering or equivalent

  • Interest in instrumental analysis, bio-analysis and chemical sensing

Contact

Dr. Georg Ramer
georg.ramer@tuwien.ac.at

Dr. Andreas Schwaighofer
andreas.schwaighofer@tuwien.ac.at

Prof. Bernhard Lendl
bernhard.lendl@tuwien.ac.at

Time-Resolved FTIR-Spectroscopy for Analysis of Refolding Kinetics of Proteins (Bachelor Thesis)

Background and Motivation

FTIR spectroscopy is an excellent method for studying protein secondary structure. By applying dedicated experimental techniques such as rapid-scan or step-scan spectroscopy, time-resolved spectra acquisition can be obtained with millisecond and nanosecond time resolution. For time-resolved spectroscopy of non-reproducible experiments, the rapid scan technique is employed. Here, this time- resolved technique will be applied to study protein structure change of a model protein after temperature jump excitation for analysis of the refolding kinetics in the millisecond time range.

Scope of the work

The student will be working in the Lendl lab at TU Wien together with a multi-disciplinary team of Master and PhD students as well as PostDocs. The work consists of setting up a temperature-jump experiment for studying conformational changes in a protein model system after thermal perturbation by rapid scan FTIR spectroscopy.
The thesis combines tasks in FTIR spectroscopy, liquid handling and optimizing experiment design. Students interested in extending their skills in these fields and in creative experimenting are encouraged to get in contact with us!

Requirements

  • Bachelor studies in Physics, Chemistry or equivalent

  • Interest in instrumental analysis, spectroscopy, protein dynamics

Contact

Dr. Andreas Schwaighofer
andreas.schwaighofer@tuwien.ac.at
Prof. Bernhard Lendl
bernhard.lendl@tuwien.ac.at

Laser-Based IR Dispersion Spectroscopy of Proteins in an Interferometer

Motivation

Recently, a novel IR spectroscopy setup based on an external-cavity quantum cascade laser (EC-QCL) and a Mach-Zehnder interferometer was developed and investigated. This interferometric measurement principle allows simultaneous sensing of a liquid sample’s absorption and refractive index (= dispersion). The obtained dispersion spectrum is equally characteristic as an absorption spectrum and can be used for quantification. The capability of the interferometric setup for quantifying protein samples through their refractive index spectra will be refined and assessed in the course of this Master thesis.

Scope of the work

The student will be working in the Lendl lab at TU Wien together with a multi-disciplinary team of PhD students and PostDocs. The work consists of adapting an existing Mach-Zehnder interferometer for measurements of proteins. Subsequently, different measurement routines will be developed and tested for quantification via the refractive index and be compared with absorption based measurements.
The thesis spans tasks of optical instrumentation, computer assisted instrument-control and data acquisition as well as chemical analysis. Students interested in extending their skills in these fields and in creative experimenting are encouraged to get in contact with us!
Financial compensation for this thesis is available.

Requirements

  • Bachelor in Electrical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or equivalent

  • Interest in laser spectroscopy, optical instrumentation and chemical sensing

Contact

DI Christian Kristament
christian.kristament@tuwien.ac.at
Dr. Andreas Schwaighofer
andreas.schwaighofer@tuwien.ac.at
Prof. Bernhard Lendl
bernhard.lendl@tuwien.ac.at