Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table!


One of my favorite elements is neon. In addition to being used in flashy advertising signs, neon played an important role in the fundamental understanding of atoms! In 1913, an English physicist named Sir J. J. Thompson directed a stream of neon plasma through electric and magnetic fields and saw that neon produced multiple lines of deflection. This observation was later identified as the first discovery of stable chemical isotopes. Thompson’s device is also considered to be the first version of an instrument we now call a mass spectrometer, which gave birth to many lines of study that resulted in multiple Nobel Prizes. Today, mass spectrometers are widely used in areas of research such as drug development, cancer diagnosis, environmental monitoring, and space exploration. My lab is currently developing imaging mass spectrometry technology to enable to visualization of biochemical processes directly in tissues. And to think, it all started over 100 years ago with a study of neon ions!