Agnes Heering successfully defended her PhD thesis on experimental realization of the unified pH scale

On December 6, 2017 Agnes Heering, an alumna of AMS, the sister programme of EACH, successfully defended her PhD thesis titled Experimental realization and applications of the unified acidity scale.

Her work literally redefines the way the pH of non-aqueous and mixed aqueous solution is understood and measured. The main focus of the experiments was on validating the measurement approach and measuring the unified pH values, i.e. pHabs values, of HPLC mobile phases (eluents). Her work introduces a conceptually new approach of measuring pH of mixed-solvent liquid chromatography (LC) mobile phases and has been published in the Analytical Chemistry journal: Unified pH Values of Liquid Chromatography Mobile Phases. Anal. Chem. 2015, 87, 2623–2630.

Mobile phase pH is very important in LC, but its correct measurement is not straightforward and all commonly used approaches have deficiencies. The new and fundamentally correct approach developed by Agnes enables direct comparison of acidities of solutions made in different solvents, based on chemical potential of the proton in the solutions.

The work by Agnes represents the first experimental realization of the pHabs concept using differential potentiometric measurement for comparison of the chemical potentials of the proton in different solutions (connected by a salt bridge), together with earlier published reference points for obtaining the pHabs values (referenced to the gas phase) or pHabsH2O values (referenced to the aqueous solution). The liquid junction potentials were estimated in the framework of Izutsu’s three-component method.
She determined the pHabs values for a number of common LC and LC-MS mobile phases and formed a self-consistent pHabs scale. This scale enables for the first time direct comparison of acidities of any LC mobile phases: with different organic additives, different buffer components etc. Agnes has developed a possible experimental protocol of putting this new approach into chromatographic practice and has tested its applicability. She has demonstrated that the ionization behavior of bases (cationic acids) in the mobile phases can be better predicted by using the pHabsH2O values and aqueous pKa values than by using the alternative means of expressing mobile phase acidity. Description of the ionization behavior of acids on the basis of pHabsH2O values is possible if the change of their pKa values with solvent composition change is taken into account.

The defence was successful in every respect. Agnes presented very well, answered questions confidently and convincingly demonstrated to everyone that she is really on top of this whole matter.

(Photo: Agnes Heering and prof. Peeter Burk, the chairman of the defence committee, during defence)


Todd_Pagano_working_with_EACH_students_in_labDuring Nov 20 to Dec 1 we had the pleasure to host visiting scholar, prof. Todd Pagano from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), USA. He conducted a two week-intensive course Principles and applications of fluorescence spectroscopy.

In this course, students reviewed the principles of fluorescence spectroscopy, were introduced to the impact of photophysical phenomena on fluorescence data, and discussed new directions of fluorescence in analytical chemistry. Techniques in multidimensional fluorescence spectroscopy with chemometric analysis were highlighted, especially in the context of novel applications in environmental and related fields.

Todd_Pagano_Lecturing_in_EACH_programmeThe course consisted of lectures, seminars, tutorial sessions and a lab practical. The latter was specifically set up for this course by prof. Pagano and was very much appreciated by students. The analysis that was carried out was determination of caffeine in beverages by fluorescence quenching.

Altogether 23 students (out of them 13 EACH students) participated in the course and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Prof. Pagano is a passionate educator. He was the director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is a unique science programme, specifically designed for deaf students. He was named “2012 U.S. Professor of the Year” by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Todd_Pagano_setting_up_lab_practical_in_EACH_programmeBesides the EACH Erasmus Mundus JMD, prof. Pagano’s visit was funded as part of a project by the US Fulbright Specialist programme.

(Images: top left, prof. Pagano working with students in the lab; right: prof. Pagano lecturing; bottom left: prof. Pagano setting up lab practical)


LC_MS_Validation_MOOC_Participants_Countries_2017On Tuesday, November 28, 2017 the web course LC-MS Method Validation was launched for the second time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). There are 423 registered participants (by more than 100 more than in 2016) from 71 countries, ranging from Bolivia to Indonesia and from Sweden to Tanzania. Image on the left shows the countries where the participants come from.

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using LC-MS as technique. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. The LC-MS validation course is delivered by a team of 8 teachers, each with their own specific area of competence. This way it is expected to offer the best possible knowledge in all the different subtopics of analytical method validation.

The full set of course materials is accessible from the web page The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged calculation exercises). In order to pass the course the registered participants have to take all tests and get higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform. Participants who successfully pass the course will get a certificate from the University of Tartu.

It is planned to run this course as MOOC again in autumn 2018.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

EACH_Erasmus_Mundus_JMDWe are glad to announce that the 2018 admission is officially open to the 4th intake of the Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programme!

This international two-year joint master degree programme educates specialists in analytical chemistry well qualified to work in industry (food, pharmaceutical, materials, energy, etc), chemical analysis laboratories (environment, food, health, etc) and research (developing new analysis devices or new analysis methods) worldwide. EACH provides knowledge and practical skills in both fundamental and applied aspects of modern analytical chemistry. Practical internship placement in industry or laboratories is an important part of the training.

The programme is suitable both for students who have finished their bachelor’s studies and want to continue in master’s studies, as well as for working analytical chemistry practitioners wishing to spend couple of years to bring their knowledge and skills to a new level.

The programme features generous scholarships as detailed in the Scholarships and tuition fees page.

The programme is taught by four universities: University of Tartu (UT, coordinator), Estonia; Uppsala University (UU), Sweden; University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL), France; and Åbo Akademi University (AAU), Finland. The language of instruction is English, but students will also learn to communicate in one of the languages of the countries involved.

The online application form, admission requirements, deadlines, list of necessary documents, instructions/explanations, as well as contact data for questions are available from the EACH Admission information page.

We wish you all the success in applying!



JMS_v52_i10_CoverThe Analytical chemistry group at UT recently received a very pleasant and well-deserved recognition: the paper MALDI‐FT‐ICR‐MS for Archaeological Lipid Residue Analysis J. Mass Spectrom. 2017, 52, 689-700 led by research fellow Dr Ester Oras was selected by the editorial board as the cover article for the Oct 2017 issue of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry!

Ester_OrasEster’s research demonstrates that tiny (and to a large extent degraded) food remains on ceramic potsherds, dating back many hundreds of years, can still tell interesting stories about the food practices of our ancestors. The key to these results is clever usage of high-resolution FT-MS with MALDI ion source.

The developed methodology is expected to lay foundation to further studies of ancient food practices in Europe.


(Photo on the left: cover of the Oct 2017 issue of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry; photo on the right: Ester Oras)


Validation_of_LC-MS_Methods_Online_CourseWe are glad to announce that the second edition of the online course LC-MS Method Validation is open for registration at the address !

The course will be offered as a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) during Nov 28, 2017 – Feb 09, 2018. This is the second edition of this MOOC and, differently from the last year’s edition, the number of participants is not limited this time. So, whoever is interested is welcome to register!

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry as technique, mostly (but not limited to) using the electrospray (ESI) ion source. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. The course is largely based on the recently published two-part tutorial review:

The course contains lectures, practical exercises and numerous tests for self-testing. In spite of being introductory, the course intends to offer sufficient knowledge and skills for carrying out validation for most of the common LC-MS analyses in routine laboratory environment. The real-life analysis situations for which there are either examples or self-tests are for example pesticide analyses in fruits and vegetables, perfluororalkyl acids in water, antibiotics in blood serum, glyphosate and AMPA in surface water, etc. It is important to stress, that for successful validation experience (both in analytical chemistry as such and also specifically in validation) is crucial and this can be acquired only through practice.

The course is free of charge. Receiving digital certificate (in the case of successful completion) is also free of charge. Printed certificate (to be sent by post) is available for a fee of 60 EUR. Registration is possible until the start of the course. The course material is available from the above address all the time and can be used via web by anyone who wishes to improve the knowledge and skills in analytical method validation (especially when using LC-ESI-MS).


DSC_0294Mass spectrometry is currently probably the No 1 technique for determining trace-level components in complex (especially biomed-related) mixtures. The key issues in such applications are sample preparation, sample introduction to MS and ionization of components of interest (analytes). Big efforts are continually made to improve any of them.

In his recent development – Sponge sprayMax Hecht, an AMS graduate, now PhD student at UT attempts improvements in all of the above issues. The elegant approach proposed by Max utilizes a volumetric sampling device – a hydrophilic sponge, which after absorbing a predetermined amount of sample (e.g. blood or urine), can be directly used for sample introduction to MS and ionizing the analytes.

The seriousness of the work has been demonstrated by the fact that it was accepted for publication by Analytical Chemistry, the top journal in the field. The published article Sponge Spray – Reaching New Dimensions of Direct Sampling and Analysis by MS is now available from the journal website.

Further developments of this approach may lead e.g. to fast medical diagnosis MS methods that, contrary to the current situation with MS in medicine, could be applied as “bed-side” diagnosis tools in hospitals.

(Photo: Max Hecht working with the sponge spray ion source)


Ime_Dimitar_and_JohanOn September 11, 2017 the third master thesis defence session in the history of the EACH programme took place at Åbo Akademi University (AAU)! Ime Bassey Isua-Ikoh and Dimitar Jovanovski successfully defended their master’s theses.

Congratulations to both of you!

(Photo on the left (left to right): Ime, Johan Bobacka, Dimitar)

Although all EACH thesis defences have members from both universities where students studied as well as from associated partners, this defence was nevertheless special by the highly international jury – Johan Bobacka (AAU), Manuel Miró (University of Balearic islands, Spain), Teem Näykki (SYKE; Finland) and Ivari Kaljurand (UT; Estonia). 75% of the members (all except Johan) participated via Skype. The connection worked well (occasionally some members disconnected, but they managed to quickly reconnect again) and serious discussions were held with both students. It is important to add that both Ime and Dimitar have already secured jobs/positions for them.

Ime_Discussing_with_the_jury_members(Photo on the right: Ime discussing with the Jury members)

Together with the defences in Uppsala and recent defence in Lyon this defence in Åbo concludes the theses of the first intake of EACH students. All EACH students of the first intake have now successfully defended their theses!


Introductory_Meeting_with_EACH_and_AMS_Students_2017This week was the first study week for the new students of Applied Measurement Science and EACH Erasmus Mundus Joint Programme. Altogether 23 students started their studies. The countries of origin of the students are Vietnam, Philippines, Hungary, Serbia, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Georgia, Romania, Mexico, Indonesia, Venezuela, Pakistan and Turkey. During the introductory meeting an overview of the programme was given (see the slides) and a large number of questions were asked and answered, accompanied by tea/coffee and cake.

We wish successful studies to all new students!


EACH_Defence_Lyon_2017On September 7, 2017 the second master thesis defence session in the history of the EACH programme took place at University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL)! Aleksandra Lelevic, Gaurav Bhardwaj, Huian Liu, Marko Jovanovic, Oleksandra Burakhovska, Olivier Etebe Nonga, Rudolf Aro and Tetiana Melnyk successfully defended their master’s theses.

Congratulations to all of you!

The topics of the theses embraced a wide area of modern analytical problems (top-down LC-MS proteomics, industrial process control with gas chromatography and Raman spectrometry, accurate moisture measurement in solids, FT-IR analysis of plasticizers in concrete, etc). The majority of the theses were performed in collaboration with industry. This choice of topics and the long-standing industrial collaboration is rooted in the world-famous industrial analysis and control study direction at UCBL led by prof. Jérôme Randon.

At a small cosy drink after the defence students shared their memories of the study period in Lyon. The students were generally very happy about their study track. They praised especially the long and serious placement in industry, which taught them a wide range of useful skills and enabled establishing many contacts. Students also spoke about their future plans. Several of them have already secured jobs/positions.

On photo from the left: Marko, Jerome (academic coordinator at Lyon), Oleksandra, Olivier, Huian, Aleksandra, Rudolf, Gaurav (Tetiana unfortunately had to leave earlier).