The 2014 LCGC Awards (Part 1)

May 11, 2014

The seventh annual LCGC Awards continue the time-honoured tradition of celebrating the careers of outstanding chromatographers. The 2014 Lifetime Achievement in Chromatography Award is granted to Fred E. Regnier. This is the first of a two part feature in The Column charting the career and accomplishments of the awardees.

One of the greatest aspects of the LCGC Lifetime Achievement in Chromatography Awards is that it presents us with the opportunity to appreciate the legacy and scientific impact of our winners. The passion and insight these scientists offer the community cannot easily be expressed, but everyone we interview gives resounding comments in that regard. For Fred E. Regnier, the passion, legacy, and scientific impact are just a few of his many achievements in a life-long scientific journey.

Fred E. Regnier
Regnier's path to chromatography did not start in the usual fashion. He says that he came to science "through the back door". "Getting into science didn't occur to me until I was out of college," he adds. In fact, he claims he only started college as a way to get out of working outside in the cold Nebraska winter. Despite his professed lack of interest in science early on, as an undergraduate at Nebraska State College (Nebraska, USA) Regnier had a triple major in physics, chemistry, and mathematics — quite an undertaking! It was during those undergraduate years that Regnier first came across separation science — while shelving books at the library on chromatography and electrophoresis. Those subjects clearly captured his interest; Regnier's undergraduate thesis was on paper electrophoresis of amino acids. After graduating from Nebraska State College in 1960, Regnier went on to get his PhD from Oklahoma State University (Oklahoma, USA) in 1965. The focus of his doctoral dissertation was the biosynthesis of terpenes and pheromones.

Regnier went on to do postdoctoral research at Oklahoma State University in 1965, the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) from 1966 to 1967, and Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA) in 1968. That work at Harvard, under the direction of Ed Wilson and John Law, focused on the identification of insect hormones and pheromones. He built a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system to purify trail pheromones from 100-lb bags of fire ants and also did work with gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS).

Figure 1: Regnier with his wife Linda and his first and last PhD students. From left to right: Nishi Rochelle (PhD 2011), Fred Regnier, Linda Regnier, and Peter Dunn (PhD 1973).
Following his postdoctoral research, Regnier took an assistant professor position in the biochemistry department at Purdue University (Indiana, USA), where he began a long-lasting professorship that would span more than four decades. He was promoted to associate professor of biochemistry in 1971. In 1976 he was promoted to associate director of the agricultural experiment station and then to full professor of biochemistry. In 1990 his title changed to a professor of chemistry, and in 2004 he became the John H. Law distinguished professor of chemistry.