Incognito: Zero to Hero... The Power of the Review Article

Jun 19, 2014

Incognito presents his pick of the review articles that have helped him progress in his chromatography career.

What chromatography or mass spectrometry journals would you recommend? I was recently asked this question by a relative newbie in our department. Are there any really good books or articles that can get me up to speed quickly?

Wow, I thought, it's nice to see such enthusiasm in an analytical laboratory. Back in the mists of time I was part of a physical journal distribution list where we scored our names off the cover sheet to say we had read that issue — and we did read it, all of it, and several more besides. Advances were faster paced in those days; you needed to keep up with the latest trends and technologies because they came thick and fast and your R&D career depended upon it. These days the pace of change is much slower, information is much more readily accessible in digital form, and, frankly, we don't have the luxury of time to digest the more "esoteric" aspects of separation or detection science. Basically, if it's not a directly relevant application note, most folks working in industry just don't have the time, or in some cases, the inclination to keep up-to-date with the wider academic literature. That's why I love review articles so much.

With the usual large helping of serendipity, in the same week I was asked for the literature recommendations, I also received a copy of an "in press" review article on the characterization of protein pharmaceuticals by Pat Sandra, Koen Sandra, and Isabel Vandenheede.1 If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times, my understanding of biochromatography has been helped immeasurably by this excellent paper. The authors use a monoclonal antibody (Trastuzumab) — which is currently receiving much attention in the pharmaceutical world — to exemplify and explain the types of analysis that can be performed at the protein, peptide, glycan, and amino acid levels, and the key literature articles where one might go to find the granular details. Since studying the highly educational 20 pages of the article (not including the reference list), I feel as though I now have a much more thorough understanding of the key analytical techniques, and when and how they might be applied. This will allow me to make more informed choices for the analyses which we are increasingly being asked for, and allows me inside the previously secret language of biochemistry. I now know enough to keep me interested, and to give me enough of an insight not to feel like a complete outsider.

It strikes me that this is what often prevents highly intelligent people from really progressing in analytical (and many other) sciences. It's a world of TLAs (three letter acronyms), a new language, a "how was I supposed to know that...", a "you could only know that if you have a thorough grounding...", a "just work it out from first principles..." type of world. Impenetrable to many except the most tenacious, who, with great diligence, will manage to see the "big picture". This is where the review article can really come into its own. A condensed version, written by the most learned of our colleagues, which distils what we need to know, what is important, what is relevant to us, and what is the current truth on important topics that can help us to improve our understanding both quickly and efficiently. The "Dummies Guide......." to the latest in analytical chemistry. I know how much work goes into producing these articles — it's gargantuan. The authors are often at the top of the field and therefore very busy, and the thanks or recognition they get typically isn't overwhelming.

If you haven't yet properly read a review article, special edition, or editorial in an academic journal, I would highly recommend it. Next time someone engages you in a conversation and you think "I really need to get up to speed on this and it sounds as though it really may help me", do a quick internet search for a review article or special issue on the subject. I can guarantee that it will be worthwhile.

In recent times there have been several such pieces that have really helped to change my understanding, perception, or opinion on analytical techniques. I have listed some of them below, so that you might also benefit. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I would publically like to thank the authors of these papers for their time and effort in producing works that have contributed to the advancement of the understanding of analytical science for myself, and I suspect for many others. If you need the "Zero-to-Hero Guide" on the next big thing in analytical science, chances are you will be able to find it within the pages of a review article or special issue within the academic literature. I commend to you the following pieces:

  • Georges Guiochon and Fabrice Gritti, Review Article: Shell Particles, Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs, Journal of Chromatography A 1218(15), 1915–1938 (2011).
  • Koen Sandra, Isabel Vandenheede, and Pat Sandra, Review: Modern Chromatographic and Mass Spectrometric Techniques for Protein Biopharmaceutical Characterization, Journal of Chromatography A, currently in press.
  • Michael Lämmerhofer, Ed., Special Issue: HILIC and Mixed Modes, J. Separation Science 33(6–7), 679–997 (2010).
  • C.F. Poole, Ed., Supercritical Fluid Extraction and Chromatography, Journal of Chromatography A 1250, 1–274 (2012).
  • Renee J. Soukup-Hein, Molly M. Warnke, and Daniel W. Armstrong, Ionic Liquids in Analytical Chemistry, Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry 2, 145–168 (2009).
  • Risto Kostiainen and Tiina J. Kauppila, Effect of eluent on the ionization process in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, Journal of Chromatography A 1216(4), 685–699 (2009).
  • Katerina Mastovska and Steven J. Lehotay, Review: Practical approaches to fast gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, Journal of Chromatography A 1000, 153–180 (2003).

If you have a particularly useful review article which you have enjoyed and would like to share, I'm compiling a "Rich List" for publication in a future column, so please let me know of it at the email address below.


1. Koen Sandra, Isabel Vandenheede, and Pat Sandra, Journal of Chromatography A, currently in press.

Contact author: Incognito


This article is from The Column. The full issue can be found here: