Postdoctoral position in Environmental and In-Vivo NMR, University of Toronto at ScarboroughUniversity of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, ON
Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environmental and In-Vivo NMR

Spectroscopy Environmental NMR Centre, Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Project Description:

The project will, in collaboration with Bruker BioSpin Corporation and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to develop and assess Environmental NMR applications. This will involve a wide range responsibilities especially exploring (and improving detection limits) across a wide range of NMR technologies including cryoprobes, micro-coils, solids and gel-state NMR, in a range of environmental matrices. In addition, the researcher will oversee the development of in-vivo NMR technologies and applications to elucidate environmental stressors. Of particular importance is to better the understanding of toxic effects from microcystins (toxins from blue-green algae) on living systems.

The Environmental NMR Centre is equipped with a range of Comprehensive Multiphase NMR probes (CMP-NMR) (J. Magn. Reson. 2012; 217:61-76). CMP NMR is a new area of NMR spectroscopy that incorporates solid-state, semi-solids (HR-MAS) and solution-state NMR into a single approach. When applied to an organism in-vivo, all bonds in all phases can be detected providing a high resolution overview of everything in a living system. In terms of static systems, specimen cells have already been developed that feed and oxygenate organisms inside NMR spectrometers permitting them to be studied indefinitely in a non-stressed state.


Often, numerous environmental contaminants are found at low levels which in isolation are nonlethal but combined exhibit toxicities that are difficult to evaluate. In the long term they may be very hazardous to animal, plant and human populations, as their affects are often detected too late, and after physical symptoms become widespread. This project will develop in-vivo NMR that will permit “molecular fingerprinting” approaches that directly measure the changes in a living organism as a direct response to its surroundings. This research aims to develop tools that can answer the key question “Is a particular contaminated environment safe for life?” and understand how and why certain chemicals are toxic. Preliminary results demonstrate the approaches that can efficiently and quantitatively asses the stress in natural populations months/years before conventional reproduction tests as-well as explaining the source of the stress and its biochemical implications. Furthermore, such “early warning systems” could potentially being used to predict and permit treatment of disease at its very early stages before symptoms are apparent.

In addition, to monitoring the changes in the organism, specific NMR experiments will also be developed to identify binding sites of anthropogenic contaminants in-vivo. This is made possible due to globally unique hardware developed between the Environmental NMR Center and Bruker BioSpin (leading manufacturer of NMR technology). It is worth mentioning that these approaches have wide spread applicability in general not just for contaminants but understand how any molecule (for example drugs, nutrition) bind in-vivo and thus represent an extremely powerful molecular tool for chemical/biochemical/medical research in general.

The Candidate

The candidate must have a strong background in NMR spectroscopy ideally with expertise in solid-state, HR-MAS and solution-state NMR. Expertise in one area is sufficient as long the candidate is willing and interested in learning all areas of NMR spectroscopy. The candidate must be open minded and willing to work with very complex in-vivo systems. The candidate should be willing to learn to design novel pulse programs that combine aspects from solution-state and solid-state NMR. Candidates will need to draw upon and integrate a range of concepts including saturation transfer, diffusion editing, cross-polarization dynamics, relaxation filters, isotope filtering with 1-3D NMR spectroscopy to access specific key molecular interactions from within complex matrices. The candidate will have access to a range of state of-the-art equipment at the Environmental NMR center including prototype multiphase probes, a range of unique micro coil hardware, as well as solid-state, HR-MAS, liquid-state, cryoprobes, microimaging, and hyphenated (2D-HPLC-SPE-NMR-MS(Q-q-Tof) NMR spectrometers.

The candidate should have an interest in environmental chemistry and/or willingness to learn key issues in this field. Due to the very technical nature of the project the position is specifically suited to a gifted and open-minded NMR spectroscopist rather than an environmental scientist with NMR experience. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the Ministry of the Environmental and Climate Change (MOECC). The candidate will be expected to travel to the MOE on occasion, attend meeting and help prepare progress reports. In addition, the candidate, along with the center manager and directors, will be expected to act as a general NMR resource for graduate students, and collaborators in the Environmental NMR Centre, and assist with training, data acquisition, processing and interpretation on projects as required. The Environmental NMR Centre is highly collaborative and such involvement will nearly always result in the post-doctoral fellow becoming a co-author in any research in which they assisted. We expect the candidate lead at least two first author publications per year. Funding is initially available for 1 year but may be extended.


Candidates should send a complete C.V. including a publication list, a statement outlining their suitability and their interest in the position. Candidates should arrange to have 3 references sent directly. Applications without the appropriate references have to be considered incomplete and cannot be considered.

Applications and references should be sent to

Professor André Simpson, FRSC
Director of the Environmental NMR Center
Department of Chemistry
Division of Physical and Environmental Sciences
University of Toronto at Scarborough
1265 Military Trail
Toronto, MIC 1A4

or e-mailed as a PDF attachment to [andre.simpson “at”]

All complete applications and references will be reviewed upon submission. The position is available immediately and will remain open until filled.

Deadline – June 16/15