Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry for the Analysis of Non-Polar Compounds
Promotion Date: 3 October 2003
I started food chemistry in Münster. A major part of these studies is based on analytical chemistry with a close relationship to practical applications. One main field of interest are the constituents of nutrients: the ones that should be there and those that should definitely not be there, like pesticides. A one year practicum subsequent to the university studies gave an experience of the food chemist’s work in industry and food quality control, the latter telling you exactly which restaurants to recommend and which to avoid; very useful knowledge. Three years ago I started my PhD research with Professor Uwe Karst in Münster
What is your background?
I started food chemistry in Münster. A major part of these studies is based on analytical chemistry with a close relationship to practical applications. One main field of interest are the constituents of nutrients: the ones that should be there and those that should definitely not be there, like pesticides. A one year practicum subsequent to the university studies gave an experience of the food chemist’s work in industry and food quality control, the latter telling you exactly which restaurants to recommend and which to avoid; very useful knowledge. Three years ago I started my PhD research with Professor Uwe Karst in Münster, Germany, and when he got appointed at the UT two other PhD students and I came along.
What is your thesis about?
It is a combination of two different analytical techniques: on the one hand liquid chromatography, which is used to separate different components in a mixture and on the other mass spectrometry, which is a detection technique to obtain quantitative and also structural information about the analyte. The technique of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) is a powerful tool for the determination of polar compounds. Unfortunately, this technique cannot directly be applied to the analysis of non-polar compounds, e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The aim of my PhD work was to develop strategies to expand the applicability of LC/MS also to the analysis of non-polar compounds.
What is the practical application?
Environmental, medical; there could be many.
We had a project within the UT with the Rubber Technology Group. In order to make tyres with more enhanced properties than we have at present, e.g. longer lasting and less polluting the environment, fundamental knowledge about the chemistry involved in their production is mandatory. Reactions are carried out to simulate the technical production process, and the reaction products have to be analyzed. The current analytical techniques were not suitable for this kind of material. So we investigated an analytical method to determine these non-polar compounds by LC/MS.
In a similar way I had a collaboration with the Group of Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials.
Did you enjoy working in those kinds of groups.
Yes, I found that very stimulating. The groups were very international as well. In the rubber group, for instance, were people from India and Spain. The groups were productive and well organized. Thus the collaboration was fruitful and we were able to get external funding for new analytic instrumentation.
Are you to continue in this line of research?
Yes, I have a contract here until January to round certain things off and after that I have a postdoctoral position in Canada, Halifax, at the Institute for Marine Bioscience in the advanced mass spectrometry facility. One field of research is the analysis of toxins in algae.
I am busy writing my research proposal for next year to get the funding.
So in your field you always have to link up with another science?
You could say that, yes. Chemical analysis is nearly always a kind of service for other groups. But it is also a science in itself that advances other sciences through new analytic approaches.
Is there a relationship between chemical science and industry?
It is obvious that industry may benefit from the advances in chemical science. So there are many contacts, established and maintained through publications and of course in conferences. The Pittsburgh conference for instance is an important one. 20,000 scientists in the fields of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy and representatives from industry meet on an annual basis. It is divided into a scientific part with oral presentations and poster sessions and an exhibition.
Attending conferences can be very fruitful to your own line of research in a way of getting new ideas. It also works the other way of course. Sometimes you find that certain researchers find it difficult to share there findings, but that is only an exception.
You are going to Canada, do you like living abroad?
Yes, I even had the idea of going abroad before I started my PhD. But the Netherlands is not very foreign when compared to Germany, where I come from. Canada will be more different. The only problem is that my girlfriend has a job in Münster and that it is a long way to Canada….
For the summary of the thesis, click here. (English)
Voor de samenvatting van het proefschrift, click hier. (Nederlands)