Evaluating Procedures for Cleaning Birds and Other Wildlife Affected by Oil Spills
DATE: April 2020
Mississippi State University | Chemistry
Amanda Patrick, Assistant Professor

Our research group applies mass spectrometry and allied techniques to solve molecular puzzles of societal importance. We use gastight syringes and needles in nearly every aspect of our analysis workflow. We use 500 microliter gas-tight syringes with blunt needles to introduce samples into our mass spectrometers for analysis by electrospray ionization (ESI), atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), and atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) mass spectrometry. One of the major allied techniques we use is ion mobility spectrometry. The ion mobility source we have is set up with a “DirectSpray” ionization source, which uses a 100-microliter syringe equipped with a 33 gauge needle to perform electrospray ionization directly off the tip of the needle. Given this use of the 33-gauge needles, they are a consumable part with a finite lifetime. Finally, to improve the separation capabilities of the ion mobility step, it is often useful to introduce a volatile liquid as a drift gas modifier. To do this, we use a flow setup, which includes a 250-microliter gastight syringe. The introduced drift-gas modifier shifts the drift times of analyte molecules, allowing for tuning of the separation.

As a researcher in mass spectrometry and related analytical techniques, sample handling, introduction, and control is a key step in the research process. Hamilton syringes will allow us to reach these goals with precision and reproducibility. While the syringes are excellent, they are also somewhat fragile. Thus, the product grant proposed herein will allow us to use the Hamilton syringes more widely in training of junior and novice researchers and in preliminary and exploratory scientific experiments. Additional syringes and replacement needles will allow younger trainees (high school, undergrad, first year graduate) to jump right into research training, with less worry for the wear-and-tear that can occur during the crucial onboarding and training process. Furthermore, these syringes and needles will be used in exploratory work not currently funded, for instance in analysis of isomeric dye molecules by IMS-MS, pushing the reach of our research program and increasing its impact.

The overarching aim of my research program is to use mass spectrometry and related methods (chromatography, ion mobility, infrared ion spectroscopy) to solve challenges across society. We are specifically interested in areas where isomer (and isobar) differentiation is crucial, as this is a challenge area for traditional mass spectrometry experiments. We also focus on areas where long, slow chromatographic runs are the norm—proposing higher-throughput approaches. We also plan to explore the fundamentals of how various separation and characterization approaches allow for more selective analysis of closely related species. We will systematically evaluate how various parameters (e.g., identity of the charge carrier, identity/concentration of drift-gas modifiers, etc.) effect separations and analyte conformations (in concert with complementary computational chemistry work).

We currently have projects (1) investigating the structure, behavior, and fate of next-generation ionic liquid-based spacecraft propellants, (2) developing high-throughput methods for detection and characterization of performance-enhancing drugs, (3) designing new approaches to the analysis of modified biomolecules (e.g., post-translational modifications of peptides), and (4) exploring methods for characterization of closely related dye molecules. Each of these projects make use of various mass spectrometers in our department and of our laboratory’s mass spectrometer and ion mobility spectrometer, thus, these projects will each benefit from the use of the syringe products proposed herein.

My laboratory is situated at Mississippi State University, a rural campus in a state recognized as an EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) state by the federal government. Many students are first generation, from developing countries, or otherwise in a potentially disadvantaged group. Thus, the opportunity to do cutting edge scientific research with top-quality laboratory supplies is an opportunity not taken for granted by my students and trainees. By funding replacement needles, backup syringes, and cleaning supplies, we will be able to extend the lifetime of our supplies and facilitate more training opportunities across levels (high school, undergraduate, and graduate).

Furthermore, our group does important work to pave the way for future adoption of new analytical approaches by other researchers. The approaches we develop and the fundamental understanding of the results we produce have the potential to make important impacts in applied fields as disparate as aerospace engineering, anti-doping science, cultural heritage studies, and biochemistry. This potential for widespread impact across many fields sets us apart from many groups narrowly focusing on singular problems.

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