Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cooks Inspires Students at 9th Annual Izatt-Christensen Lecture

Posted: Mar 23, 2017

The ninth annual Reed M. Izatt and James J. Christensen Lecture Series was given by Dr. R. Graham Cooks from Purdue University on 20-21 March, 2017. Cooks is one of the world's foremost experts on mass spectrometry ranging from fundamental research and instrumentation to analytical applications. He was educated at the University of Natal, South Africa, and Cambridge University in the UK. Since 1990 he has been the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University. Cooks has authored 1,100 publications and served as thesis advisor to 130 PhD’s. His recent recognitions include being an Elected Fellow for both the National Academy of Inventors and the US National Academy of Sciences, and winning the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry, awarded by the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Cooks presented two lectures at the Reed M. Izatt and James J. Christensen Lecture Series. His first talk, “Mass Spectrometry (MS): Synthesis and Analysis for the Greater Good,” was on mass spectrometers as a means to study the science of ions. “The first part of this presentation follows a thread in MS analysis in which ambient ionization is performed on unmodified samples, in air, and where in situ measurements are made possible by using miniature mass spectrometers” read Cooks’ first abstract. An emerging application is the use of MS for intrasurgic diagnostics, to identify brain tumor margins and estimate the degree of infiltration into healthy tissue. The second part of the presentation addressed the use of MS as a synthetic method. “It is shown that ordinary organic chemical reactions can occur at highly accelerated rates in microdroplets and this observation provides a basis for rapid milligram scale organic synthesis. It is simple to switch from collection of reagents to reaction intermediates to products. The use of MS for synthesis has didactic value as shown by published undergraduate laboratory exercises,” says Cooks.

The second talk, entitled “Mass Spectrometry (MS):Instrumentation and Chemistry,” spoke on the points of intersection of instrumentation and chemistry in mass spectrometry as a rich area of innovation and useful application. This lecture explored several individual topics at this nexus. “They include nitrogen fixation in organic compounds, isotope separation using strong isotope effects, clinical point-of-care analysis of biofluids, metabolomics by multiple reaction monitoring [MRM] without using chromatography and applied inter alia to Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, magic number cluster formation and its possible role in homochirogenesis and nanomaterials preparation using ion deposition,” read Cooks’ second abstract. Particular attention was focused on the emerging topic of ambient ion focusing and ambient ion mobility separation using only DC electrical potentials.

At the beginning of his second lecture, emeritus professor Reed M. Izatt presented Cooks with a plaque commemorating him as the Izatt-Christensen lecturer for 2017.

The Izatt-Christensen Lectures are named after two internattionally recognized members of the university, Reed Izatt of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and James Christensen of the Department of Chemical Engineering. The two professors started a joint research program in chemical thermodynamics and chemical separations which received international recognition. The long-time colleagues also guided more than 60 graduate students through their M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering during their time at BYU. Christensen passed away unexpectedly in September 1987.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Woolley: Dr. Cooks receiving his award from Dr. Reed M. Izatt, with Dr. Dearden in the middle.

Writer: Taelin Wilford