Issue Date: January 16, 2012
ACS Award in Separations Science & Technology
Sponsored by Waters Corp.
After more than 35 years as a researcher, teacher, and entrepreneur in the chemistry department at Brigham Young University (BYU), Milton L. Lee is being honored for his numerous contributions to microseparation column technology and instrumentation.
Lee, 65, is well-known for developing separation columns for all forms of capillary chromatography and electrophoresis, as well as instrumentation for capillary supercritical fluid chromatography, time-of-flight mass spectrometry, and hand-portable gas chromatography-MS.
He has founded three analytical separation science instrument companies and has commercialized a capillary supercritical fluid chromatograph, an atmospheric pressure ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer, and a hand-portable gas chromatograph-toroidal ion trap mass spectrometer. He holds 20 patents.
Lee has made “outstanding contributions in all fields of separation science: capillary gas chromatography, supercritical fluid chromatography, liquid chromatography, all electrodriven separation techniques, and mass spectrometry,” says Patrick J. F. Sandra, a professor of organic analytical chemistry at Ghent University, in Belgium. “This makes him quite unique in our discipline.”
“He is among the relatively few separation scientists who have made significant contributions across a broad range of major modern analytical separation techniques,” says Adam T. Woolley, a chemistry professor at BYU. Lee has developed “useful analytical separation column technologies and instrumentation that are especially relevant to environmental, biomedical, and chemical-biological warfare analysis,” Woolley notes.
One of Lee’s signature achievements is his work on developing novel porous polymer monolithic stationary phases, says Frantisek Svec, director of the Organic & Macromolecular Synthesis Facility in the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “He introduced porous polymer monoliths based on hydrophilic cross-linkers, enabling separations of proteins in aqueous media using size-exclusion and ion-exchange modes,” Svec says. “This approach has had an enormous impact on rapid separations of compounds of biological origin.”
Lee pioneered an approach called sol-gel bonding of silica particles “to create a variety of excellent monolithic columns,” Svec says. “Many of the novel stationary phases he has developed are now used all over the world.”
But the talented graduate students and postdocs who have come through his laboratories represent his most significant research accomplishment, Lee says. Taking part in the growth and development of students is “the most satisfying aspect of my career,” he tells C&EN. “I am amazed at their continual accomplishments, even years after they have left BYU.”
Lee comes from a family of chemists. His father was a chemistry professor at Utah State University and four of his five brothers received advanced degrees in chemistry. When he is not in the laboratory, teaching students, or selling instruments, Lee spends his time gardening and restoring antique tractors. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and camping, but by far, he says, “my most enjoyable activity these days is spending time with grandchildren.”
Lee will present the award address before the ACS Division of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry.
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