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After 10 years at U.T. Arlington, I have decided it is time to take one of the best opportunities afforded to researchers in an academic faculty position-to travel abroad and assimilate new techniques into my repertoire to enhance future research activities.
Happy New Year to you all! I am writing this blog entry in early January, days before I am set to leave on sabbatical for the semester. After 10 years at U.T. Arlington, I have decided it is time to take one of the best opportunities afforded to researchers in an academic faculty position-to travel abroad and assimilate new techniques into my repertoire to enhance future research activities. I will spend the next few months with Prof. Luigi Mondello, Prof. Paola Dugo, and their group at the University of Messina in Sicily, Italy. The goal of my stay will be to learn multidimensional chromatography through spending some time in the laboratory with them. As some of you may or may not be aware, the University of Messina includes one of the largest installations of Shimadzu instrumentation in Europe, so it matches well the resources we have here at U.T. Arlington. The exception is that here in Texas, we have not yet incorporated any comprehensive two-dimensional instrumentation into our facilities. With my visit to Italy, I hope to change that and to bring expertise in the subject back to Texas.
From an academic standpoint, it is my feeling that multidimensional chromatography is a more active area of research in Europe than it is in the United States. Of course, I do not want to take away anything from those here in the United States (or in other parts of the world) who are indeed invested in research in the area, but as I begin counting the names of the professors I know who actively work in this area, the large majority seems to be in Europe. I do have the feeling that such research endeavors are more actively supported with grant funding in Europe. Here in the United States, the obvious support for basic research in chromatography would come from the National Science Foundation, but their budget is only a fraction of that provided by the National Institutes of Health, which supports more application-oriented health research. In my experience, many of the European Union countries, and even the EU itself, appear to place more funding into basic academic research than we do here in the United States.
The Mondello group at the University of Messina is a world leader in the use of multidimensional chromatography for food analysis (1–3). They have used both comprehensive liquid chromatography (LC) and gas chromatography (GC)-and even interesting combinations of the two-to investigate many food components, including lipids, antioxidants, and contaminants. Food is a complex matrix, and the potential for multidimensional chromatography to speciate different classes of compounds is a concept their group has demonstrated time and again. In our group, we have done some work previously in food-related analysis (4,5), but to be fair, this effort was largely fueled by my time spent in the laboratory at Messina one summer while I was a graduate student. During this visit, I will be particularly interested in focusing on two topics. I want to apply comprehensive LC for the separation of intact proteins from biological fluids. This approach will feed nicely into work we are doing to develop methods for biomarker quantitation. Further, with our interest in vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) detection for GC (6), I am interested in learning more about comprehensive GC, and how its combination with VUV detection could further enhance the characterization of mixtures of volatile organic compounds. Both of these areas will be a little outside of the norm of applications for the Mondello lab, and thus, I hope that my visit can be mutually fruitful.
My visit to Italy will not be just fun playing in the laboratory. With the help of Mondello and his group, I have secured a visiting professorship, which will require me to teach a course in food quality and analysis to some of their master’s students. It has been a while since I have taught a new course, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to develop one that has a defined focus on a particular topic. This course will be quite different than the more generic instrumental analysis, quantitative analysis, or mass spectrometry courses I have taught here at U.T. Arlington.
So, for the next few months, my blog entries will come from abroad and may have a different slant as a result of that experience. I know from my short previous stay that the Sicilian culture is one where I may have trouble returning to the coffee, pasta, and wine here in the United States, but I am willing to make this sacrifice in the name of science! That said, I am excited by the opportunity to delve into a new research topic. Multidimensional chromatography is something that most chromatographers can speak intelligently about, but I have the opinion that it is a topic that must be practiced through experience with seasoned mentors in order to do it well. In that respect, I am very excited to return to be a student in the laboratory once again. Alla prossima!
(1) P.Q. Tranchida, P. Dugo, G. Dugo, and L. Mondello, J. Chromatogr. A1054, 3–16 (2004).
(2) P.Q. Tranchida, G. Purcaro, M. Maimone, and L. Mondello, J. Sep. Sci., doi:10.1002/jssc.201500379 (2015).
(3) P.Q. Tranchida, P. Donato, F. Cacciola, M. Beccaria, P. Dugo, and L. Mondello, Trends Anal. Chem.52, 186–205 (2013).
(4) J.S. Barnes, H.P. Nguyen, S. Shen, and K.A. Schug, J. Chromatogr. A1216, 4728–4735 (2009).
(5) J.S. Barnes and K.A. Schug, Int. J. Mass Spectrom.308, 71–80 (2011).
(6) K.A. Schug, I. Sawicki, D.D. Carlton Jr., H. Fan, H.M. McNair, J.P. Nimmo, P. Kroll, J. Smuts, P. Walsh, and D. Harrison, Anal. Chem.86, 8329–8335 (2014).
Kevin A. Schug is a Full Professor and Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at The University of Texas (UT) at Arlington. He joined the faculty at UT Arlington in 2005 after completing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Virginia Tech under the direction of Prof. Harold M. McNair and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Vienna under Prof. Wolfgang Lindner. Research in the Schug group spans fundamental and applied areas of separation science and mass spectrometry. Schug was named the LCGCEmerging Leader in Chromatography in 2009 and the 2012 American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Young Investigator in Separation Science. He is a fellow of both the U.T. Arlington and U.T. System-Wide Academies of Distinguished Teachers.