Purdue professor and former student win Nobel Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry

May 27, 2014  


Nobel Laureate Signature Award

Purdue professor R. Graham Cooks (third from left) and former graduate student Livia S. Eberlin receive the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry from Thomas J. Barton (left), president of the American Chemical Society, and Nandkumar V. Deorkar (right), Avantor Vice President of Research and Development. (Photo courtesy of the American Chemical Society)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University professor R. Graham Cooks and his former graduate student Livia S. Eberlin won the 2014 Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry.

The American Chemical Society gives the award annually to an outstanding graduate student in the field of chemistry and his or her instructor. The society recognized Cooks and Eberlin, who earned a doctoral degree in analytical chemistry from Purdue in 2012, for their work demonstrating the capabilities of ambient ionization mass spectrometry in cancer diagnosis and surgery.

Cooks, the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is a pioneer in the field of mass spectrometry, in which the contents of a sample are identified by turning its molecules into ions and measuring their mass. He developed the ambient ionization technique of desorption electrospray ionization, or DESI, which eliminated the need for mass spectrometry samples to be chemically manipulated and contained in a vacuum chamber for analysis. This allowed testing to be done in the air or directly on a surface and created opportunities for new applications.

Eberlin, who joined Cooks' research team in 2008, led the design and testing of a tool that uses the DESI technique to characterize the type and grade of brain cancer and detect boundaries between healthy and cancerous brain tissue.

"Livia's research and dissertation was judged the best presented in the U.S. last year, and this award is a reflection of her accomplishments," Cooks said. "She had a superb thesis, and this work has the potential to change the way in which diagnosis is performed during surgery."

The Purdue research team collaborated with researchers and physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School to perform the study. The tool successfully identified the cancer type, grade and tumor margins in five brain surgery patients. A paper detailing the results was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Eberlin, who is currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Stanford University, and Cooks received the award during a ceremony at the annual American Chemical Society national meeting. The award includes $3,000 and a plaque inscribed with the signatures of past Nobel Laureates for each of the recipients.

The award is sponsored by Avantor, which manufactures and markets high-performance specialty chemistries and materials around the world. The company established the award in 1978 to support and reward future generations of laboratory scientists and chemists who conduct groundbreaking research in chemistry. It is given annually to a graduate or postdoctoral student and preceptor pair to recognize the importance of education, preceptorships and mentoring, according to the company.

"Avantor is proud to recognize the work of individuals like Dr. Eberlin and Dr. Cooks," Avantor vice president of research and development Nandu Deorkar said in a statement. "We are pleased to honor their innovative use of chemistry to drive medical research and technology and improve the lives of others."

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and is the world's largest scientific society.

More information is available at http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/funding-and-awards/awards/national/bytopic/nobel-laureate-signature-award-for-graduate-education-in-chemistry.html 

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu

Sources: R. Graham Cooks, 765-494-5263, cooks@purdue.edu

Livia Eberlin, liviase@stanford.edu 

Related news releases:

New tool to help brain surgeons one step closer to operating room 

ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry 

Avantor news release

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