Research Aims

  1. Develop novel instrumentation and methods to improve imaging mass spectrometry figures of merit.
  2. Discover and utilize gas-phase ion chemistry (including ion/ion, ion/molecule, ion/photon, and ion/electron reactions) to improve structural identification, analytical sensitivity, and molecular specificity.
  3. Utilize fundamental and computational experiments to understand reaction kinetics and thermodynamics.
  4. In close collaboration with biologists and clinicians, leverage novel imaging mass spectrometry technologies as well as biostatistical tools to understand the molecular events associated with important problems in human health.

Instrumentation / Ion Chemistry / Applications

Research in our laboratory is focused on the development of novel chemistries and next-generation mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation to better understand the molecular basis of health and disease. In particular, we use imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) to enable the visualization of biochemical processes directly in tissue specimens by combining the molecular specificity of mass spectrometry with the spatial fidelity of microscopic imaging capabilities. The significance of this work lies in its application, in collaboration with biologists and clinicians, to the study of tissue samples. Leveraging novel chemical analysis strategies, we aim to understand the molecular events associated with important problems in human health, including cancer, infectious disease, and diabetes.

Imaging Mass Spectrometry

In matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI IMS), a thinly sectioned tissue specimen is first mounted onto a flat substrate. The sample is then coated with a chemical matrix that has a strong absorbance at the wavelength of the MALDI laser to promote efficient desorption and ionization of molecular targets. A raster of the tissue surface is performed with the laser and mass spectra are collected at discrete x, y positions directly from the sample surface. Following data acquisition, maps of intensity are reconstructed for any ion of interest across the tissue.

Gas-Phase Ion Chemistry

In this age of molecular science, mass spectrometry offers enormous potential for biological discovery by both comprehensively testing and generating hypotheses. However, improvements in sensitivity, molecular specificity, and spatial resolution are crucial in order to answer increasingly complicated biological questions. Our lab focuses on the development of gas-phase ion/ion, ion/molecule, ion/photon, and ion/electron interactions to improve analytical performance. These gas-phase transformations are fast, efficient, and specific, making them ideal reactions for implementation in imaging mass spectrometry experiments.