May 4, 2023
College of Science’s analytical chemistry program solidifies No. 1 ranking — driving innovation, advancing research across disciplines
About this series: This story is part of an ongoing Purdue Today series highlighting programs ranked in the Top 10 or Top 10th percentile among our peers nationally, demonstrating the university’s persistent pursuit of excellence, innovation and transformative learning.
From understanding the composition of the solar system to rapid screening of blood and tissue, analytical scientists use their knowledge of chemistry, instrumentation, computers and statistics to solve problems in almost all areas of science and technology.
Housed in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science, Purdue University’s analytical chemistry program retained its No. 1 ranking in the latest U.S. News & World Report graduate program survey released April 25. The Purdue program also remains one of the world’s largest, with 16 faculty members and over 100 graduate students.
“Analytical chemistry provides much of the data on which decisions are made in every hospital, most manufacturing companies and many government agencies,” says Christine Hrycyna, head of the Department of Chemistry and 150th Anniversary Professor.
“The field is key to evaluating materials used in agriculture, medical devices and transportation industries. It is a part of all phases of pharmaceutical drug development where safety and efficacy of new medicines is essential. Furthermore, this field enables advances in semiconductor manufacturing where purity drives reliability and yield.”
Mass spectrometry, one of the core areas of analytical chemistry, is uniquely strong at Purdue, where the analytical chemistry program has a 60-year tradition of developing new instrumentation for making chemical measurements. Mass spectrometers are instruments that scientists use to identify the “chemical fingerprint” of a sample. They are used in numerous fields, and Purdue is an innovator in a variety of “mass spec” applications.
Scott McLuckey, the John A. Leighty Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is building a mass spectrometer from the ground up, creating most of the components in-house here on campus. In McLuckey’s lab, his team is working with scientists and engineers from Purdue’s Jonathan Amy Facility for Chemical Instrumentation to develop a novel, high-performance tandem mass spectrometer that isolates and analyzes ions at resolutions very few instruments have attained.
Improving mass spectrometer performance provides enhanced capabilities to determine, for example, the identities and concentrations of molecular components in complex mixtures, such as those encountered in biology, medicine, the environment and other areas.
Julia Laskin, the William F. and Patty J. Miller Professor of Chemistry, and her team have developed new imaging techniques for mapping proteins and other important biomolecules in biological tissues at a resolution of 10 microns, which helps distinguish individual cells. These capabilities will facilitate the discovery of new drugs and provide insights into key processes in both health and disease.
“I chose Purdue’s program because of the wide variety of research being performed in the analytical chemistry groups on campus,” says PhD student Miranda Weigand, who is developing advanced mass spectrometry imaging approaches in professor Laskin’s lab. “The chemistry being studied at Purdue is truly fascinating and exciting to me, and I found a research group that aligned with my interest.”
Jean Chmielewski, interim dean of Purdue’s College of Science and the Alice Watson Kramer Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is extremely proud that the College of Science is home to the consensus No. 1 analytical chemistry program in the nation.
“The strength of the program is evident in our coverage of this vital field of science and our ability to train graduate students for success in academic, industrial and government careers,” she says. “This is evident from the successful paths our alumni have taken. As our nation’s focus turns more strongly to climate and health, many of the solutions lie in the research output of our analytical chemists.”
Writer: Steve Scherer, email@example.com