New research instrument opens avenues of discovery

Rich Helm, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry, says researchers are lining up to use the new liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ new liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer isn’t that it is quicker and has 1,000 times more sensitivity than older ones — it’s how it allows researchers to see the bigger picture and the dynamic molecular environment of an entire system. The instrumentation is used to detect the presence of individual chemicals in complex mixtures.

By being able to capture that larger view, it will help to determine how corn can better respond to drought, how to reduce water pollution, and how to develop more effective drugs, among other things.

“We are able to ask questions that we could never ask before,” said Rich Helm, an associate professor of biochemistry.

Ten different departments, colleges, and institutes across campus helped purchase the $800,000 machine — a testament to how vital such a tool is to the university’s researchers.

“This is going to help us continue to be a leader in finding the answers to some of today’s most pressing problems,” said Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean for research and graduate studies. “It opens up a whole new avenue of scientific discovery.”