Frank H. Field & Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 5 | p. 47 | Awards
Issue Date: January 29, 2007

Frank H. Field & Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry

Department: ACS News
Credit: Dave Spiel, PNNL
Credit: Dave Spiel, PNNL

Sponsored by Waters Corp.

Like many chemists of a certain age, Jean H. Futrell first discovered a love of chemistry when he was given a chemistry set as a Christmas present.

Now, at the age of 73, Futrell is Senior Battelle Fellow and science adviser in the Office of the Chief Research Officer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He served as the first director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) from 1998 to 2002 and is now the director emeritus.

While his interest in chemistry dates back to that chemistry set, Futrell first became interested in mass spectrometry in graduate school. "Although I never consciously set it as a goal, I am sure that my interest in using mass spectrometry methods to investigate elementary reactions of ions is traceable to my graduate student days, where I first learned about these marvelous machines at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory," he says. No university chemistry departments had mass spectrometers in those days, Futrell says, and it was several years before he had hands-on access to one.

In graduate school, Futrell studied the radiation chemistry of dichloroethylenes. It was of great interest to scientists investigating the chemical effects of ionizing radiation that quantitative rate constants for ion reactions could be measured by mass spectrometry. In 1958, he received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

He briefly worked as a radiation chemist at the Humble Oil & Refining Co. (now ExxonMobil) Research Center in Baytown, Texas. Following a stint as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, he worked from 1961 to 1967 as a civilian scientist at Aerospace Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 1967, he became a chemistry professor at the University of Utah. He moved to the University of Delaware in 1986.

Futrell counts tandem mass spectrometry as his most significant contribution to mass spectrometry. He connected multiple mass analyzers in series, separated by reaction cells, first with a five-sector magnetic sector and later with triple quadrupoles and other types of mass analyzers. "My objective at the time was investigation of reaction mechanisms and dynamics of low-energy, ion-molecule reactions," he says. "Analytical applications were developed for the most part by other scientists."

In retrospect, he realizes that he overlooked the enormous commercial potential for tandem mass spectrometry in analytical chemistry. "Patenting the concept would have been a great idea," he says.

R. Graham Cooks, Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor in the department of chemistry at Purdue University, describes Futrell's career as one of "groundbreaking science stretching from the 1960s through the 2000s."

"To a remarkable degree, Jean's research interests have been driven by attempts to understand, in a quantitative way, fundamental ionic phenomena," Cooks says. "In pursuing these endeavors, he has shown himself to be one of the most gifted of instrumentalists and has achieved deep insights into the complex behavior of simple and more complex ions."

The award address will be presented before the Division of Physical Chemistry.

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