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ACS Award In Chromatography

by Craig Bettenhausen
January 12, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 2

Credit: Steve Morton
Mug of Milton Hearn.
Credit: Steve Morton

Sponsored by Sigma-Aldrich/Supelco

Monash University chemistry professor Milton Hearn, 71, says that his creative ideas come from three places. “The first thing as far as I’m concerned is to be open and transparent: Talk to people; recognize you only have a small fraction of the knowledge pool,” Hearn says. “The second is, where possible, have as many young people around you as you can.” Third, he says, important science has to have a practical translation, and so working with industry is “a driver to get the sharp end of creativity right.”

Those principles have served the Australian chemist well over a distinguished career spanning more than 40 years.

Joseph Pesek, a chemistry professor at San Jose State University, in California, who studies separation methods, says, “In the late 1970s, professor Hearn began a concerted research effort to understand the fundamental principles of HPLC [high-performance liquid chromatography] and provided significant advances leading to the mature and essential technique that it is today.

“An obvious assessment of the stature of his research is the number of publications—more than 600—and the quality of the journals where they appear.”

Steven M. Cramer, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., says Hearn’s “innovations have led to the discovery of many new classes of chemical and biological molecules with important new functions. His important and creative accomplishments have been a significant catalyst for the extraordinary growth in knowledge in the chromatographic sciences for several decades.”

James W. Jorgenson, a chemistry professor who specializes in complex mixture analysis at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, names Hearn as “the single most important contributor worldwide to our understanding of the chromatographic separation and purification of proteins and peptides.” He adds that Hearn’s work “has included fundamental studies of the retention mechanisms of proteins in a wide variety of chromatographic systems, including reversed-phase, hydrophobic interaction, and ion-exchange modes. Later, his work moved on to encompass investigations of electrophoretic separations of proteins as well.

“The successful introduction of the new generation of protein-based drugs rests in no small part on the groundbreaking research of professor Hearn, which has shown us the way to both purify proteins and analyze their purity,” Jorgenson adds.

In 2002, Hearn was asked by Monash to lead a research center funded by the Australian government, the Centre for Green Chemistry, which later morphed into what is now the Victorian Centre for Sustainable Chemical Manufacturing. Hearn says that a great deal of the work his group has done over the years “was green chemistry without being called green chemistry. It was all about taking the energy out of processes, reducing the use of hazardous chemicals, cutting down on waste. A lot of the streams of my work were all about achieving those principles.”

Hearn, who will also receive the ACS Division of Biochemical Technology’s Alan S. Michaels Award in the Recovery of Biological Products this year, will present his chromatography award address before the Division of Analytical Chemistry.


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