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Chemistry faculty rack up numerous awards


In front of a packed Fowler Hall, Dr. Graham Cooks, the Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, accepted the 2013 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences for his 40-plus years of work in the Department of Chemistry and in the field of mass spectrometry.

With family, students, colleagues, mentors and Purdue dignitaries in attendance, Henry C. Walter, president of Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, handed Cooks a framed citation and large gold medal as the hundreds in attendance rose to their feet for a standing ovation.

Cooks humbly thanked various collaborators, teachers and many students past and current before diving into a quick mass spectrometry 101 presentation and explanation of his proudest accomplishments, many of which occurred not even a decade ago.

One of those initiatives that Cooks concentrated on during his talk was Desorption Electrospray Ionization (DESI). The technique of analyzing solid samples present on a surface with minimal to no sample preparation by spraying fast-moving charged solvent droplets onto sample surfaces has gone on to the fields of drug testing, cancer detection, food safety and forensics. Cooks' technique even made it into an episode of “CSI.” A clip played over a screen during Cooks’ award address saw veteran actor Laurence Fishburn’s character Dr. Raymond Langston using DESI technology in an episode.

Later in his address, two of Cooks’ students did a live demonstration that ionized the surface of a grocery story orange. A screen quickly showed spikes in ionic field that showed trace amounts of chemicals on the fruit. The tests usually show that pesticides had been sprayed on it at some point.

Cooks revealed that the future of mass spectrometry lies in synthesis and materials preparation. Another goal is to have a mass spectrometer that could sync up to a smart phone.

Founded in 1946 in New York, the Dreyfus Foundation is a leading non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences.

Other Chemistry awards this semester:

  • Associate professor Trevor Anderson was given the 2013 Howard Barrows Award at McMasters University, which recognizes outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions in education as scholars and teachers.
  • Prof. Jonathan Wilker was named a 2013 Science Fellow of PopTech, a global community of innovators that "work together to expand the edge of change."
  • Chemistry alumna Livia Eberlin received the American Chemical Society Nobel Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry. She is a former PhD student of Prof. Cooks' and is currently a postdoctoral research associate at Stanford University.

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