We aim to provide monthly blogs from MSG members on a bi-monthly basis, please come back regularly to learn about our community.
Hi I'm John Andrews a member of the committee. My company sells a range of molecular spectroscopy systems, mainly for process analysis (PAT) applications and research. Working in this market, rather than supplying “plain vanilla” laboratory instruments, means you never know what you will be measuring and what technique you will be using next time. I particularly enjoy the wide range of industries and applications that we find ourselves working with (or trying to!) Over the past few months we've been looking at such diverse problems as which spectroscopic technique could be used to quantify the four ingredients in a liquid consumer product, monitoring and controlling the blending of two industrial polymers, improving the performance of a crystallisation and looking at the UV-Visible spectrum of inks without a dilution step, to mention but a few.
As well as the diversity of applications, working as a vendor gives you the opportunity of working with the latest instrumentation and sometimes even influencing it's development. Salesmen can play a key role channelling feedback from end-users to the people involved in product development. Then, when something new is developed, the salesman needs to understand what it can (and can't) do and get the message out there. Feedback from the early adopters of new spectrometers is important too, both from the point of improving a new product and also finding new applications for it.
For me the downside of sales is that travelling , especially by road, seems to be getting slower and slower as the roads become more congested. However, I’ve recently become a convert to rail travel and use trains whenever I can – I’m actually writing this blog on a train. My green credentials and my productivity are improving!
What is ‘Molecular Spectroscopy’? Well that’s easy isn’t it? It’s spectroscopy applied to molecules – simple! But of course it not as simple as that, nothing ever is.
‘Spectroscopy’ itself has a very simple definition which is that it’s the study of the interaction between matter and light (light representing the electromagnetic spectrum). Molecular Spectroscopy therefore is the interaction between molecules and light and that fits nicely with our original definition. But the diversity that fits within this definition is great as I’ll go on to talk about.
There are the ‘classic’ molecular spectroscopies such as infrared, Raman and ultraviolet. These exhibit diversity in themselves in that they involve either the scattering or absorption as different modes for obtaining information about molecular structure. Then we have nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy which relies on magnetic fields as a means of inducing different energy levels which can be used to enable electromagnetic radiation to cause a transition which can be measured and which gives information in solution, or solid state about all manner of materials, organic and inorganic. Then we have fluorescence spectroscopy, EPR spectroscopy, Terahertz spectroscopy, circular dichroism, vibrational circular dichroism, laser spectroscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy and so many more I don’t have space to list them all (my apologies if your favourite is not one of those listed.
Those are the spectroscopies, but what about the molecular side of things? Well applications for molecular spectroscopy are even greater than the techniques themselves. Ranging from new inorganic materials to nanoparticles, to paintings from the old masters, pharmaceuticals, bulk chemicals, clinical diagnostics, security and again, so many more, the variety is infinite. Spectroscopy can be run at the microscopic or macroscopic level, providing real time or offline data to give insight into almost any process you can think of.
Molecular spectroscopy even goes beyond spectroscopy. Mass spectrometry and ion mobility spectrometry, for example, are not even spectroscopies in the true sense of the word, going back to our original definition. But these techniques fall squarely into the realm of ‘molecular spectroscopy; because of the overlap with all those other spectroscopies and the fact that they so beautifully complement them in delivering understanding in whatever field.
And what links all these techniques and applications? Well the Molecular Spectroscopy Group does. The Molecular Spectroscopy Group is interested in all these areas of science and the combination of many of these, looked at holistically and in partnership can be used to solve so many problems. The power that comes with bringing these together is why a group spanning this breadth has such a role to play, alongside all those necessary technique-specific groups you may also be a member of. It’s one of the things that makes it such an interesting group to be a part of and why, if you’re not a member already, I’d recommend that you join up and find out more…
In my previous blog entry (see here) I briefly described the role of the Molecular Spectroscopy Group (MSG) and indicated we would follow up with a series of entries from the committee members introducing ourselves – so here we are. I’m Steve, the chairman of the MSG and I’m an NMR Spectroscopist working in the Pharmaceutical industry. My particular interests in NMR are mainly focussed around the elucidation and identification of small molecules and the use of NMR for reaction monitoring. I never thought I’d become an NMR spectroscopist, and really didn’t even know you could earn a living as one (think that page must have been missing in the careers book I looked in as a teenager!). I’ve always loved science and built my interest in Chemistry during my A-levels and subsequent degree, but it wasn’t until doing my PhD in natural product chemistry that I became intimately familiar with the power of NMR and how it can help you out as a chemist. Obviously, as with most natural product chemistry(!) it didn’t go as planned, and rather than spending most of my time doing reactions and modifying potential anti-cancer agents, I spent a lot of time down in the basement, running NMR’s and learning about acronyms like COSY, FLOCK and DEPT. To be honest, the names meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, but I knew that by learning how to “read” the results I was able to figure out what had actually happened in my reaction, rather than what I’d hoped to have happened. As a youngster, I’d always loved doing logic problems and puzzles, and interpreting NMR data just seemed to be another logic problem, where all the answers were there somewhere, you just needed to find out how to figure it out. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for the last 15+ years ever since. I think I’m incredibly lucky to have found a job doing something I love, which is both mentally stimulating and challenging, and ultimately plays a key part in the development of drugs which help to save and improve patient’s lives.
Come back to our MSG blog next month to find out more about my fellow committee members and their areas of expertise and interests
“The interrupting cow”
“The interrupting cow wh......
Well, not the usual start to your science blog, but hopefully it might make you read a little bit more... That by the way is my 6 year old son’s favourite joke at the minute, he told it to the on Saturday morning when he and his 3 year old brother were doing “Science like Daddy” in the shape of a child’s Chemistry kit they got for Christmas. I love the fact that the pair of them are showing signs of an interest in science at such an early age and have to admit I really enjoyed playing with food dye and litmus paper. And I guess it’s the same passion for science and learning that led me to get involved with the RSC Molecular Spectroscopy Group (MSG) several years ago, of which I am now the Chairman.
The MSG committee is a multidisciplinary group with expertise in NMR, PAT, Vibrational and Ion Mobility Spectroscopies to name but a few techniques and we all have a shared interest in the application of our own disciplines to solving problems, be they in an academic or industrial environment. Although many other interest groups and organisations exist which focus on the fundamentals of some of these disciplines (eg the NMRDG, BMSS, IRDG etc.), we at the MSG try to cater for those who appreciate that their technique (although clearly superior to all others!) sometimes, maybe, can do with a little help from another technique. Speaking as an NMR spectroscopist myself, I enjoy the “love – hate” relationship I have with my MS colleagues and do occasionally rely on them for minor pieces of information like Molecular Weight or a Molecular Formula. This is one if the reasons why the MSG enjoys hosting multidisciplinary meetings such as “Data to Knowledge”, or the successful “Structure” meetings we have helped to organise with colleagues in the BMSS and NMRDG. We are always on the lookout for new ideas and thoughts about meetings /conferences / symposia we could arrange which address specific problems that may cover a number of different technique areas and are keen to hear from our Group members if there are any subjects you feel worthwhile.
The main aim of the MSG blog is to try and share some of our thoughts and ideas around our own technique areas and certain applications which interest us and hopefully some of you will find it equally as interesting and hopefully contribute yourselves. We plan to start with a series of posts from our committee members covering their own area of expertise so you can get to know us a little better and we’d love to hear from our members to see if there is more we can do as a committee for you.
The blog will be hosted on our MSG website (link here) and we hope you’ll come back for more...
We have now registered a new web address for our RSC MSG site - www.molecularspectroscopy.org.uk. This will link you through to our MSG home page where you will be able to find information about the committee, ongoing activities and forthcoming events.
We recently ran a survey of our members and it was clear that better communication was a common theme. As such, we have created a new website for the group to provide clear links and information for our memebers to current and future planned MSG activities as well as external links to useful areas. We hope it comes in useful!!