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Fred E. Regnier, 74, the John H. Law Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University, may have been fated to become a chromatographer.
Even as a child on his family’s farm, he was interested in the separation processes involved in grain-harvesting machines. Later, while reshelving library books as part of his college job, he stumbled upon early volumes on chromatography and electrophoresis. “By the time I was a sophomore in college, I had found a power supply and was building electrophoresis gear,” he says. “My separation systems didn’t work very well, but I was hooked.”
Today, nobody is saying that Regnier’s separation systems don’t work. Name a type of chromatography used for protein separations, and there’s a good chance that Regnier has developed a column for it at some point in his career.
“For roughly 40 years, Fred Regnier has been a pioneer in biological separations and their application both in analysis and in production,” says Scott A. McLuckey, a colleague of Regnier’s at Purdue. Regnier developed the first columns for many kinds of high-performance protein separations, including those used for size-exclusion chromatography, anion-exchange chromatography, cation-exchange chromatography, hydrophobic interaction chromatography, and macroporous reversed-phase chromatography in high-performance liquid chromatography systems.
Regnier credits John H. Law of the University of Chicago and Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, with whom he did back-to-back postdocs in the 1960s, with encouraging him to pursue separations and analytical biochemistry, instead of insect biochemistry, when he started at Purdue.
“Our dream at that time was to reduce protein separation times 100-fold,” Regnier says. “We were among the small group of people who developed the science and column chemistry that made that dream come true at both the analytical and production scale.”
“Fred Regnier has been a very influential scientist in practically all directions of protein chromatography,” says Milos V. Novotny, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington. “His innovative column designs have been effectively utilized in analytical methodologies as well as large-scale separations in biotechnology.”
Regnier received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Nebraska State College, in Peru, Neb., in 1960. In 1965, he received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Oklahoma State University. He then held postdoctoral positions at Oklahoma State (with George Waller), the University of Chicago (with Law), and Harvard (with Wilson).
In 1968, he joined the Purdue faculty as an assistant professor of biochemistry. He was promoted to associate professor in 1971 and full professor in 1976. From 1976 to 1977, he was also the associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Purdue. In 1990, he moved to the university’s chemistry department.
He has received most awards given in the field of chromatography, including the Stephen Dal Nogare Award for Achievements in Chromatography in 1987, the ACS Award in Chromatography in 1989, the Martin Gold Medal from the Chromatographic Society of Great Britain in 1993, the Marcel Golay Award from the International Symposium on Capillary Chromatography in 2001, and the Csaba Horváth Medal presented by the Connecticut Separation Science Council and the Hungarian Society for Separation Sciences.
Regnier will present the award address before the ACS Division of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry.