Advanced Mass Spectrometry

Research line

The objective of our research is to develop advanced mass spectrometry based methods to characterize the metabolites (small molecules < 2000 Daltons) present in plants and food.

Metabolites are everywhere. They are characterized by diverse chemical structures which will determine their functions. Secondary metabolites play key role as inter-kingdom messengers, have beneficial effects on human health and may have antimicrobial activity. However, natural doesn't necessarily mean safe, or good. Plants can use metabolites as chemical weapon to defend themselves against a broad range of predators and these metabolites can also be toxic for humans.

From an analytical chemistry point of view, the comprehensive analysis of secondary metabolites by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry remains a challenge because of their chemical diversity, the large number of isomeric forms, and the lack of analytical standards. Therefore I have a specific interest in adding innovative analytical techniques such as ion mobility mass spectrometry and mass spectrometry imaging to the metabolomics workflow to overcome the challenge of comprehensively characterize the “metabolome” (complete set of small-molecule chemicals found within a biological sample).

Research pillar I – Natural Products Chemistry

Untargeted metabolomics focuses on global detection of small molecules in a sample. By applying this advanced analytical approach we can characterize plants and food (i.e. botanicals, novel foods), discover (bio)markers and get new insights into the biological mechanism underling i.e. plant response to climate change and multiple biotic and abiotic stresses.

Research pillar II – (Bio)transformation of Toxins

Natural toxins can be present in our food. These compounds can undergo modification in plants, animals, soil leading to the formation of a large number of possible modified forms, whose toxicological relevance and occurrence in food and feed is still largely unexplored. Due to climate change and the reduce use of pesticides, plants are more stressed and thus are accumulating more natural toxins with different (and unknown) chemical structures.


Open Positions and Opportunities

Please contact Dr. Laura Righetti (, and include a cover letter and CV.

Biography – Laura Righetti, Ph.D.

Dr. Laura Righetti is Assistant Professor in Analytical Chemistry at Wageningen University and Research. She joined the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Wageningen Food Safety Research in 2022 as recipient of the WGS Postdoc Talent Programme 2022.

She holds a MSc degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and completed her PhD degree in Food Chemistry at the University of Parma on the applicability of high-end analytical chemistry tools to assess quality, authenticity, and safety of wheat.

She has been working in mass spectrometry-based metabolomics since her Master thesis in the framework of the Erasmus program at the Centre for Metabolomics and Bioanalysis in Madrid. During her doctoral studies, Laura visited Prof. Jana Hajsolva lab at the University of Chemistry and Technology (Prague) for one year. This enabled her to make significant contributions in bringing innovation in the field of natural toxins, by providing new solutions to old problems, such as the elucidation of modified mycotoxins, using ion mobility mass spectrometry.

The postdoc research at the University of Parma was focused on the development of high-resolution mass spectrometry methods to elucidate the biotransformation of natural toxins. Laura Righetti led her first project in 2019, a postdoctoral contract funded by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service-Founding) conducted at the Justus Liebig University (Giessen), which aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the spatial compartmentalization of mycotoxins in plants using imaging mass spectrometry.

Her main research interest is to apply high end mass spectrometry tools (such as Ion Mobility and Imaging MS) in the omics domain to investigate the effect of multiple contaminants on edible plants.