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Business & Education Education, Professional Development, Liquid Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry, Metabolomics & Lipidomics

Let It All Out

Facundo M. Fernandez: Analytical chemistry has morphed into something far more complex than just chemical measurements – expanding into biology, biomedicine, and materials science. We cannot continue to operate with a 19th century definition of what analytical chemistry is. As analytical scientists, we have the unique privilege of informing decision makers. We now have much more data at our fingertips to inform those decisions, but we need to shift mentality and training approaches to stop taking one variable at a time and embrace massive datasets once and for all.

Hans-Gerd Janssen: I find it too strong to say that the hardware for chromatography and mass spec is ready. There is always room for improvement, so it will never be completely ready. Other areas require more development, however – data processing being one of them.

Richard D. Smith: That those in our field are increasingly reluctant to openly question something – a data set, a publication, a widely accepted concept. Sometimes this is due to a fear of being “wrong,” peer pressure, or simply a desire to avoid a possibly uncomfortable discussion. I believe it is healthy for our science when we do so, as well as for each of us individually; and when you are wrong, and we all are sometimes, you benefit from a better understanding of the issue at hand!

Gary Hieftje: I strongly believe that graduate students (and some undergrads) should be given nearly free rein in choosing and directing their own research. With ownership of a project, they can develop problem-solving skills more effectively. Additionally, I feel that it is important for students to pursue more than one project at a time to broaden their knowledge. There can also be opportunities to relieve frustration if something isn’t going to plan on their first project. If a component is malfunctioning or a temporarily insoluble issue arises, by turning to their second project, the student may find that their insoluble problem resolves itself while pursuing another task.

Marcello Locatelli: Conceiving research through collaboration and interdisciplinary work is crucial for driving scientific progress and generating groundbreaking discoveries. By working with diverse colleagues across multiple fields and technologies, we can tackle complex problems leading to innovative solutions.

Chuck Lucy: We should still teach manual titrations – covering accuracy and precision. I appreciate the captivating case studies and innovative experiments our colleagues have developed, which will undoubtedly attract young scientists to our field. However, there are limited opportunities to teach students how to achieve the correct answers and emphasize the importance of attention to detail. At UAlberta, we follow a traditional approach – assessing students based on their accuracy within strict tolerances. We acknowledge the difficulty of their tasks but provide extensive support to help them meet our expectations. As a result, the vast majority of students succeed. The experience profoundly influenced their scientific perspective and behavior throughout their careers.

Janusz Pawliszyn: Non-experts should not run analytical chemistry courses.

Bhavik Patel: There are occasions where we forget the roots of analytical science, which manifests as bad habits within undergraduate students. With a lack of routine assessment of the fundamentals, students are failing to fully grasp the importance of accuracy, precision, and statistical analysis. We must not forget the vital nature of these principles for all aspects of analytical science.

Susan Olesik: Understanding fundamentals is essential. New methods will develop over time, but understanding the fundamentals of science can help you continually advance the field. All too often, people look for shortcuts and mistakes are made. 

Fabrice Gritti: It is marginal, yet, it concerns the impact of particle size distribution in packed columns on efficiency in liquid chromatography. Tightening this distribution does not lead to better resolution columns. However, there is still this ghost thinking in the community believing the opposite despite prior experimental and simulation proofs. It is not clear how this myth was born and still supported today by both academic and industry leaders.

Benjamin Garcia: Maybe this is not specific for the field, but in general for science. We need to move to having overall smaller research groups/labs. In my career, I’ve had at times >25 people in my lab. Though it was fun, it was chaotic as well, and most importantly I felt that I was not able to be a great mentor at those times when my lab was very large (not enough hours in the day). To provide a better experience for trainees in academia, I believe we need to have enough time to focus and support them. Smaller labs will also allow you to pay lab personnel higher salaries. People want to feel valued and not have to worry about paying the rent.

Michael Breadmore: That old people should retire gracefully to provide opportunities to younger scientists so that they can become the creative and independent people we need them to be.

Alexander Makarov: I believe that the promise of the scandalously failed Theranos startup (to provide full clinical analysis from a single droplet of blood) is fully realizable already now – if only an appropriate combination of compact mass spectrometry with other methods could be employed. 

Aebersold Rudolf: My possibly most controversial opinion about the field is that communication of progress in analytical sciences should increasingly focus on what results and insights can be achieved by the analytical technique rather than on how it works precisely. Let’s take the field of proteomics where we have worked for a long time. The advances of mass spectrometric techniques in analytical terms like LOD, LOQ, number of proteins identified per hour, dynamic range, precision and accuracy have progressed at an incredible pace. But for the general life science research community, it might be more captivating if communication was to focus on the message that the data generated can not just indicate the presence and quantity of essentially any protein in a sample, but also how they are modified, how and with whom they interact, what shape they have and ultimately what functional role they carry out in the highly complex environment of a living cell.

Pat Sandra: A quote without comment: there are far too many journals and far too many meetings in our field.

Koen Sandra: A rather strong opinion I keep repeating is to look into the data. We have all these fancy machines generating brilliant data next to tons of junk, and it’s important that we don’t solely rely on software algorithms to find the truth. There is always something extra to human touch. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed – especially if the answer you are looking for is right there waiting for you.

Oliver Fiehn: Metabolomics and lipidomics don’t need further developments. The data provided by service companies is sufficient.

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About the Author
Jessica Allerton

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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