Sebastiaan Van Nuffel
Assistant Professor at Maastricht University | Biological and Clinical ToF-SIMS Research
I obtained my BSc and MSc in Chemistry from the University of Antwerp in Belgium. I then obtained my PhD in 2016 from the University of Nottingham in the UK. After my PhD, I worked as a postdoc for the French National Center for Scientific Research from 2017 until 2018. In 2019 I started a postdoc at the Pennsylvania State University in the USA. Recently, I was hired as an Assistant Professor (UD) by the Maastricht University.
Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS)
Throughout my scientific career, I have built up an extensive expertise in imaging mass spectrometry, specifically time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), and its application in biological and medical research. This technique allows for 3D chemical imaging by combining molecular ion imaging and depth profiling, which offers a novel, label-free way to investigate biological samples such as tissue sections and even single cells. The types of molecules ToF-SIMS can detect are varied: it can detect elements as well as inorganic and organic molecules with a mass smaller than 2000 Da. The types of biomolecules that can be observed are nucleobases, amino acids, sugars, metabolites and intact lipids. It is also possible to detect non-native compounds such as drugs and toxins.
The ability of imaging mass spectrometry to investigate the localization of specific native and non-native compounds in single cells and tissue sections in a label-free manner creates exciting, new avenues for biological, medical and pharmaceutical research. There is a clear potential for this technique in various fields of research, in particular lipid metabolism and signaling, and it is my full intent to develop a research program in this field.
Advanced Data Analysis
Over the years I have also come to realize that one of the reasons hyperspectral techniques such as ToF-SIMS and matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry are underused is the lack of powerful data analysis tools as these measurements generate very large data sets. There is a strong need for such tools given the fact that the data is only getting bigger. For the past couple of years, I have been developing multivariate data analysis tools to aid the interpretation of hyperspectral image data.