Novel mass spectroscopy for detection of insect biosecurity threats

Host Faculty: Engineering
General Subject Area: Science, Chemistry, Biology
Project Level: PhD
View the Research Website
Vespula Germanica

As climate change and trade patterns intensify, the range of insect pests is increasing, as is the need for rapid surveillance. Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) has been used to "fingerprint" food but has yet to be applied to detect biosecurity threats to plants. A particularly difficult challenge is the rapid id of insect pests, especially when endemic species look similar.

You will focus on foundational work, develop and validate REIMS ability to detect insect biosecurity threats, classify samples and quantify limitations, e.g., influence of sample age and storage.

You will work in New Zealand's only REIM facility, work collaboratively at AgResearch, as well as at Lincoln University and at Canterbury University, where you will gain excellent opportunities for networking.

This scholarship is supported through a Better Border Biosecurity programme ( collaboration between the University of Canterbury’s Biosecurity Innovation Research Cluster (UCBI), AgResearch and Lincoln University.

Your supervisors will be Assoc. Prof Steve Pawson (UC School of Forestry, Director UC Biosecurity Innovations), Assoc. Prof. Alastair Ross (AgResearch) and Dr Karen Armstrong (Lincoln University).

Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city close to the Southern Alps (hiking, skiing, climbing, mountain biking).

Image: Kkmurray, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons



Supervisor: Steve Pawson

Key qualifications and skills

A first-class Honours or Master’s degree in biology or chemistry. Ideal
candidates will have prior experience in the use of mass spectrometry and an interest in entomology. Demonstrated competence in statistical analysis is essential, experience with multivariate data analysis and/or machine learning would be ideal.

Does the project come with funding

Yes - $28K per annum for 3 years plus study fees

Final date for receiving applications

31st January 2023


Chemistry; biology; entomology; insects; biosecurity; mass spectrometry