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Analytical Chemistry

A Major Award For Mass Spec

Honors: Dreyfus Prize given to R. Graham Cooks, who shrank MS devices and expanded the technique

by Stu Borman
May 9, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 19

Credit: Purdue University
Photo of Professor R. Graham Cooks.
Credit: Purdue University

Good things sometimes come in small packages. The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation took that maxim to heart when bestowing its 2013 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences on R. Graham Cooks, a pioneer in mass spectrometry, including miniaturized MS instrumentation.

The inexpensive miniaturized mass spectrometers devised by Cooks and coworkers at Purdue University, where he is the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, are portable handheld devices useful for many applications. But that is just one among several notable developments in MS for which he is honored.

Cooks “has enriched analytical chemistry in unparalleled ways,” the foundation notes. “Virtually every pharmaceutical and biotechnology company relies on mass spectrometry at a level that has become possible, in part, through Cooks’s innovations.”

Cooks’s group developed and commercialized handheld MS instruments by shrinking individual components of conventional instruments. The team’s other achievements include important contributions to the development of tandem MS and ambient ionization MS techniques.

Tandem MS improves on the structural information available from conventional single-stage MS by fragmenting ions in two stages separated in space or time. The technique is a particularly powerful approach for the study of complex mixtures.

Cooks and coworkers also pioneered ambient ionization MS techniques such as desorption electrospray ionization and desorption atmospheric pressure ionization, in which molecular sampling and ionization are concerted, making it possible to analyze samples rapidly in air at room temperature with no sample preparation.

Cooks “has invented technology for quick chemical analysis that has applications ranging from medicine to food safety to national security,” says Purdue President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. “Advances made in his laboratory have not only shaped his field of science but also created tools to keep us safer and to make medical tests easier and treatments more precise.”

The biennial Dreyfus Prize consists of $250,000, a citation, and a medal. Cooks will receive the award at a fall ceremony at Purdue.



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