The 2014 LCGC Awards (Part 2) - - Chromatography Online
The 2014 LCGC Awards (Part 2)

The Column
Volume 10, Issue 9, pp. 17 to 20

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.



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