22 May 2018

First year is almost finished - how is the PhD going?

News from ESR3

This is a brief resume of the first year of my PhD at CSIC in Barcelona.

Written by ESR3 Massimo Picardo

Since the first year of master degree I decided to improve my skills in the field of the analytical chemistry so here I am. Proud to be part of this project, I started working within the NaToxAq network under the supervision of my director Marinella Farré in the CSIC (Spanish Council for Scientific Research) and the co-supervisor Oscar Nuñez from UB (Barcelona University).

During this year I studied to improve my knowledge in natural biotoxins and to discover the methods used by different authors to identify different natural toxins in freshwater and drinking water. The first months have been focused on reviewing literature and method approaches to obtain more information as possible on natural toxins, their occurrence, the analytical methods and mass spectra to identify them.

Then has started the funniest and the hardest work which consisted in the development and optimization of a method to separate our natural biotoxins from water matrix. First of all, since for me it was the first time handling a Q Exactive™ Hybrid Quadrupole-Orbitrap Mass Spectrometer, I received all the support I needed to learn how to use the software and the instrument. The same was done in the mass lab of the University of Barcelona (UB) where I met new colleagues which are PhD in other fields. After learning the HPLC-QExactive MS secrets, much time was dedicated on the method development. In the very first part we dedicated lot of time discovering the best parameters to ionize the toxins. Then we started to develop our screening method using different approaches to concentrate and clean the samples. To identify suspected natural toxins in drinking and freshwater, that’s clear, we need water samples.

ESR3 and ESR6 during the monthly sampling in two water basin.

Guided by Marinella Farré who knows the best sampling points, water basins and possible bloom sites we started a sampling campaign along the Ter River (Catalonia, Spain) from March 2018. Preliminary dirty water samples were obtained in a first sampling campaign while a second campaign to obtain blank samples was done in later (Nov-Dec) 2017.  Part of these samples have been already analyzed and some suspected toxins have been successfully tentatively identified.

In Sep-Oct 2017, I met for the first time the NaToxAq project colleagues, during the summer school organized in Helsingør, Denmark. Looking forward for the second summer school in Scarborough (UK) in June 2018.

That’s all folks, stay connected for news from other ESRs and papers from NaToxAq project.