De Villiers is currently chairing the Western Cape board of the Chromatographic Society of South Africa. He was also responsible
for the organization of two successful conferences that took place in Stellenbosch: the 39th National South African Chemical
Institute convention in 2008 and Analitika 2010.
Future Contributions: Given what de Villiers has already accomplished in his career, we asked several of his mentors and peers where they thought
his work might take him.
Sandra expects de Villiers to make contributions to the fundamental understanding of chromatographic processes, because he
has a very strong theoretical background. He also thinks de Villiers will play an important role in education. "He will definitely
have a great impact in the education of students in Africa on state-of-the-art analytical techniques and, more specifically,
chromatography and electrophoresis combined with high-resolution mass spectrometry," said Sandra.
Górecki feels de Villiers will continue the legacy of other great South African separation scientists, like Victor Pretorius
or Ben Burger. "He has already made his mark on separation science, and the trajectory from here can only be up, especially
knowing de Villiers's talent and work ethic," Górecki said.
Barend (Ben) V. Burger, an emeritus professor from Stellenbosch University, thinks that de Villiers might branch into GC,
even though that is not his primary area of research. "I think there is still much scope for the development of more affordable
two-dimensional instrumentation," said Burger.
Frédéric Lynen, an associate professor at Ghent University, said de Villiers's research would continue in natural product
analysis with the "discovery of new, thus far, biologically active compounds via the combination of high-end chromatography
and the elucidation of structures of unknown natural solutes".
A Testament to De Villiers's Character: Other scientists describe de Villiers as friendly and down to earth. Hilder recalls first meeting him at an HPLC conference
in 2006, and said their friendship has grown since then. "The separation science community is very supportive and there is
now a good group of young people all at a similar stage in their careers," she said. "We catch up at meetings, and this makes
for a great, fun support network of scientists for bouncing off ideas and sharing advice." Hilder also said that she shares
a love of cricket with de Villiers.
De Villiers is indeed a big sports enthusiast — not just as a fan, according to Górecki. De Villiers regularly plays pickup
football games, and is an avid biker and an aspiring surfer. "He often comes to the university in the summer with a surfboard
attached to the roof of his car," said Górecki. "This earned him the nickname 'Professor Dude' among his students."
Górecki shared a story about de Villiers's participating in a grueling bike race around Cape Peninsula that is more than 100
km long and has numerous climbs and strong winds. Several years ago de Villiers crashed and injured himself rather badly,
so he could not complete the race. It took several hours for an ambulance to reach him. "De Villiers declared that he would
never do that race again and stopped biking entirely. After a few months, though, he registered for the next year's race and
started to train again," said Górecki. "This dedication is what drives his career as well."
Lynen paraphrased one of de Villiers's favorite quotes: Something worth doing is worth doing well. "I always found this phrase
very characteristic of his personality," said Lynen. He also mentioned a research problem that de Villiers worked on in 2003
to address peak distortion problems when drawing the calibration lines of organic acids in capillary electrophoresis. Lynen
explained that the problem looked very strange and difficult to solve, but de Villiers was able to correctly deduce that the
increasing concentrations of each organic acid calibrant were effectively lowering the pH of the migrating zone and, as a
result, creating an electrodispersion phenomenon that could be fixed by adjusting the sample pH.1 "The meticulous approach with which he addressed that problem (also by studying a lot of literature on the topic) was very
impressive and demonstrated the eye for detail that is characteristic of a true scientist," said Lynen.
More About the Winners
In-depth interviews with Fred E. Regnier and André de Villiers, focused on their research, challenges, and accomplishments
will be published in upcoming editions of the LCGC North America newsletter, E-Separations Solutions.
1. A. de Villiers, F. Lynen, A. Crouch, and P. Sandra, Eur. Food Res. Technol.
217(6), 535–540 (2003).
Megan L'Heureux is the managing editor of LCGC North America.
This article is from The Column. The full issue can be found here: