Bob Pirok of the University of Amsterdam Wins 2024 HTC Innovation Award

From left to right: Deirdre Cabooter, Bob Pirok, Alasdair Matheson.

From left to right: Deirdre Cabooter, Bob Pirok, Alasdair Matheson.

Bob Pirok of the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands is the winner of the 2024 HTC Innovation Award, which was presented at the Hyphenated Techniques and Separations Technology (HTC-18) conference in Leuven, Belgium on Friday 31 May 2024. The award is co-sponsored by the HTC conference and LCGC International.

Deirdre Cabooter, the Chair of the HTC-18 Scientific Committee, said, “Bob Pirok has an impressive research output. He has worked on polymer characterization, including pyrolysis-gas chromatography and hydrodynamic chromatography (HDC), and multidimensional liquid chromatography separations, using the interface between separation dimensions as a point of chemical transformation using photolytic or immobilized enzymatic digestion. For this award, the Scientific Committee and Industry Board of HTC-18 particularly recognize Pirok’s research on using cutting-edge machine learning and chemometric approaches to automate method development for both single dimension as well as two-dimensional liquid chromatography separations. Since method development for complex samples, such as synthetic polymers and oligonucleotides medicinal drugs, is currently a true bottleneck, the impact of automating this process on many research fields and industries cannot be underestimated. The same approaches can also be extended to other techniques, such as GCxGC, further broadening the application field to, for example, petrochemicals.”

Pirok worked first two years at Shell Global Solutions before he performed his PhD research with Peter Schoenmakers and Ron Peters at the University of Amsterdam. In 2019, he became assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Forensic Analytical Chemistry group of Arian van Asten. Pirok’s main research concerns the application of computational techniques such as chemometrics and machine learning to enhance the use of separation technology through better method development, with a particular emphasis on LC and 2D-LC.

His other interests include fundamentals of chromatography and modulation technology. He currently runs the Chemometrics and Advanced Separations Technology group with Andrea Gargano at the University of Amsterdam. He has co-authored more than 75 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. Currently, he is finishing a textbook together with Peter Schoenmakers entitled Analytical Separation Science. With their textbook, Pirok and Schoenmakers aim to contribute to the teaching of modern separation sciences in higher education.

Pirok is visiting research professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in the group of Dwight Stoll. He received several international recognitions, including a Shimadzu Young-Scientist Award at HPLC2015 Beijing, the Young-Scientist-Award Lecture during the SCM-8 meeting in Amsterdam in 2017, the Csaba Horváth Young-Scientist Award at HPLC2017 Prague, the Journal of Chromatography Award during the ISCC Conference in Riva de Garda in 2018, and the SCM Award at the SCM-9 meeting in Amsterdam in 2019.

Pirok’s research team runs several industrial-academic collaborations and projects, mainly with the pharmaceutical and polymer industry. The group is known for bringing its research into education and vice versa.

“I am very honored to be receiving the HTC Innovation Award. I am accepting this as a representative of a great team of people who made this work possible, in particular Tijmen Bos, Stef Molenaar, and Jim Boelrijk," Pirok said. "These achievements are due to our teamwork. I feel blessed with the many academic and industrial collaborations and opportunities that have come on my path with great scientists around the globe. I would like to thank Peter Schoenmakers, Dwight Stoll, and Arian van Asten for their continuous support.”

The HTC Innovation Award was launched by LCGC International and the HTC Scientific Committee and Industry Board to celebrate a separation scientist who has made a pioneering contribution to the field of separation sciences by introducing new methodologies, new instrumentation, or new techniques in the field, with a strong focus on applications that benefit society.

LCGC International is very pleased that the HTC Scientific Committee and Industry Board have awarded the prize to Bob Pirok who is widely regarded as a pioneer and innovator in separation science,” said Alasdair Matheson, Executive Editor of LCGC International. “We look forward to seeing how he will advance separation science in the future."

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