Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award

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The 2007 Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award was presented Tuesday morning to Jonathan V. Sweedler, Lycan Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

The 2007 Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award was presented Tuesday morning to Jonathan V. Sweedler, Lycan Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, by Nicholas Barsic, Chairman of The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh. The award was presented for Sweedler’s work in bioanalytical chemistry with a focus on developing new methods for assaying small-volume samples and applying the methods to neurochemistry.

Sweedler’s group includes approximately 28 research scientists, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students. They are involved in the analysis of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides using novel techniques such as sheath-flow capillary electrophoresis, wavelength-resolved fluorescence detection, nanoliter-volume NMR, single-cell mass spectrometry, and hybrid nanofluidic devices for neuronal sampling. They have also developed dynamic (time-resolved) separation methods to measure the time course of neurotransmitter release. Specific projects include method development efforts in capillary electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, and molecular gates and neurochemistry analyses of nitric oxide, serotonin, neuropeptides, and neuronal connections.

Other awards Sweedler has received include the Merck Prize, the American Chemical Society Analytical Division Award in Chemical Instrumentation, the Gill Prize in Instrumentation and Measurement Science, the Benedetti-Pichler Award in Microanalysis from the American Microchemical Society, and the American Chemical Society Arthur Findeis Award for Young Analytical Scientists.

In the technical session that followed the award presentation, presenters covered topics such as nanofluidics and mass-limited chemical analysis, detector technologies for spectroscopic analysis, the development of an analytical platform for functional discovery of novel neuropeptides, and the use of capillary electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, and electrochemical detection for small-volume measurements.


To end the session, Sweedler presented a talk titled “Technologies for Understanding Novel Neurochemistry One Cell at a Time.” The subtitle, “An Example: Understanding the Role of d-Aspartate and d-Glutamate in the Brain” more accurately defined the presentation. The focus of the talk was on d-aspartate activity as a possible neurotransmitter in the cerebral ganglion of Aplysia californica, the California sea slug. Aplysia californica is widely used in synaptic plasticity studies because of its simple nervous system. Sweedler emphasized that choosing the correct model is one of the most important aspects in studying a biological system.

According to Sweedler, the chemical exists in every animal studied, first at a 50% level, then disappears in adults except in the brain. In Aplysia californica, it has been shown to be localized in the cerebral ganglion and has been measured using capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence detection. In one set of experiments, radiolabeled l-aspartate was converted to d-aspartate in the cerebral ganglion, showing that the compound could be synthesized in vivo.

Sweedler noted that along with d-aspartate, d-glutamate is present in the system, but other d-amino acids aren’t, including d-tryptophan, d-cysteine, d-tyrosine, and d-methionine.