Issue Date: January 1, 2007
ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry
Sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute
Maintaining tropical fish and tinkering with electronics and radios as a child provided a fertile ground for the inquisitive mind of James W. Jorgenson, W. R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who went on to do key research on using analytical techniques to study biological systems.
His start in science took Jorgenson from a biology to a chemistry major and from a focus on chemistry of natural products to biochemistry to analytical chemistry. This breadth of experience has given him a skill set that he's used to make seminal contributions in capillary electrophoresis, ultra-high-resolution chemical separations, and multidimensional liquid-separation techniques. It's for this body of work that he is being honored.
"Jorgenson's research efforts have had a huge impact on the field of analytical chemistry and on the way that chemical and biological experimentation is performed around the world," says J. Michael Ramsey, distinguished professor of chemistry at UNC. "Many of the chemical separation techniques that he developed are widely used in industry, particularly in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research," Ramsey notes.
In the 1980s, Jorgenson helped develop the separation technique of capillary electrophoresis (CE). This technique gave scientists unprecedented resolving power for separating mixtures of ionic species and pushed the frontiers of chemical separations.
Jorgenson is most proud of the "cross-fertilization" that this technique has inspired. "The research we did beginning in the early 1980s generated a great amount of interest among scientists from a wide range of disciplines and brought these diverse people together around this common research interest and research tool," he explains, adding that this coming together was beneficial to the analytical chemistry field.
Jorgenson also led groundbreaking work in the area of single-cell analysis using microcolumn separations. Here, he was able to simultaneously measure endogenous levels of neurotransmitters and enzymes in single cells by using microcolumns to resolve stable-isotope-labeled synthetic substrates.
For his work on CE and single-cell analysis, Jorgenson received the 1993 ACS Award in Chromatography. He has continued to build on his separations research and has made key impacts in areas such as high-speed column-switching based on optical and electrophoretic gating, rapid CE separation, and use of ultrahigh pressures in high-performance liquid chromatography and ultrahigh voltages in CE to boost peak capacity.
His current research program focuses on combinations of chromatography with mass spectrometry to increase selectivity in analyzing complex mixtures.
Winning this award "is a very nice recognition of the work that my students and I have done together over the years," Jorgenson says. "We were just being curious and having fun, but it is nice to see that it has been useful as well."
Jorgenson received a B.S. degree from Northern Illinois University in 1974 and earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1979. His honors include the 2005 Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award and the ACS Northeast Section's 2004 Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest.
The award address will be presented before the Division of Analytical Chemistry.—Susan Morrissey
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