During Apr 22 to May 4 we had the pleasure to host visiting scholar, prof. Todd Pagano from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), USA. He conducted, for the second time, 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. The course consisted of lectures, seminars, tutorial sessions and two lab practicals. The latter were specifically set up for this course by prof. Pagano and were very much appreciated by students.

The first practical was about discovering the fundamental concepts of fluorescence (excitation and emission spectra, Stokes shift, Vavilov’s rule, fluorescence lifetime, etc). The second practical was about analysis of caffeine in beverages using salicylic acid as a fluorescent chemosensor. This analysis utilizes the ability of caffeine to quench the fluorescence of salicylic acid and introduces students to the fluorescence quenching, Stern-Volmer equation and inner filter effects.

Altogether 30 students (out of them 14 EACH students) participated in the course and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.


Prof. Pagano is a passionate educator. He was the initiator 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.


(Images: top left, group photo of prof. Pagano with course participants; right: prof. Pagano with students in lab)


Choosing the best possible ion source is a very important step in liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS) method development. In a recent paper ESI outcompetes other ion sources in LC-MS trace analysis Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2019 Asko Laaniste from the UT Analytical chemistry group carried out a large scale survey of differen LCMS ion sources (and their different working modes) as applied to pesticide analysis. He compared electrospray ionisation (ESI) source, thermally focused/heated electrospray (HESI), atmospheric pressure photoionisation (APPI) source with and without dopant, and multimode source in ESI mode, atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation (APCI) mode, and combined mode using both ESI and APCI, i.e. altogether seven different ionisation modes for the analysis of 40 pesticides (see list below).

The lowest limits of detection (LoDs) were obtained by ESI and HESI. The widest linear ranges were observed with the conventional ESI source without heated nebulizer gas. ESI source was significantly less affected by matrix effect than the HESI source. APPI ranked second (after ESI) by not being influenced by matrix effect; therefore, it would be a good alternative to ESI if low LoDs are not required.

It was somewhat unexpected that ESI outperformed HESI. This may be caused by the instability of the additional heated gas (sheath gas) in HESI that is used in addition to the nebulising gas.

In conclusion, as a broad generalisation, Asko’s results show that although several new ion sources have been introduced during the last decade, the conventional ESI performs at least equally to these new ion sources in the case of polar to medium polarity pesticides. ESI with thermal focusing (HESI) performed more or less equally with ESI in terms of LoD. At the same time, HESI had significantly poorer intermediate precision of matrix effect values for most compounds. Thus, for trace analysis, ESI is still the ion source of choice.

(Full list of pesticides: pymetrozine, thiamethoxam, methiocarb-sulfoxide, chloridazon, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, methiocarb-sulfone, thiacloprid, imazalil, thiophanate-methyl, metribuzin, pyrimethanil, fenpropimorph, spiroxamine, propoxur, triasulfuron, bupirimate, paclobutrazol, methiocarb, azoxystrobin, epoxiconazole, myclobutanil, fenhexamid, fluquinconazole, flusilazole, mepanipyrim, bitertanol, propiconazole, triazophos, methoxychlor, ditalimfos, tebufenozide, benalaxyl, pyrazophos, buprofezin, indoxocarb, trifloxustrobin, quinoxyfen, pirimiphos-ethyl, hexythiazox)


(Image top left: Asko Laaniste preparing solutions; Image right: Comparison of accuracy of LC-MS analysis using different ion sources)


I was that lucky person, who got accepted to EACH program in 2016. And by saying lucky – I mean it. EACH was not only a kick-off point in my career, but it was a life changing experience.

Our journey began in Tartu. There we had a very good life. We were well taken care of, living was easy and fun. All the professors were extremely nice and respectful towards each of us. This first year gave me very good basics of analytical chemistry, uncertainties, and chemometrics.  It helped me a lot along the way and up to now. Measurement uncertainty online course is an absolute must! Everything is explained in a very understandable way. For me, this course was my salvation to uncover the mystery of uncertainties.


And here comes Uppsala! Us, students, spoiled by the life in Tartu, Uppsala hit like a huge wave of hard and non-stopping marathon of work. We had only one course at the time. But we were going deeply into theory and then putting our knowledge into the practice in our daily lab work. Our routine mode back then was “lab work – writing report – repeat”. It was a lot of work, but on the other hand – a lot of experience. We had our hands on such instruments like ICP-AES, HPLC, GC, MS, MALDI, etc.  For analytical chemist, this place is called paradise. And it was also the perfect time to find yourself and your place in this area.

Group work was a big part of our studies here. Basically, each person’s workload was heavily dependent on other people. Therefore, good teamwork was the key to success. I was lucky to have the best group ever! During that time we supported and helped each other. Making a cup of coffee definitely counts!

But don’t get scared! This work pays off afterward with all the acquired knowledge. After this program, I can certainly say that I am confident in myself, as an analytical chemist, and in my skills.  Now I am working in Gothenburg, Sweden, at AstraZeneca as an Analytical Scientist. Due to my experience from these studies, I could easily join the ongoing work.

But Uppsala is not only about the studies! This city is known as the city of bikes and Student Nations. I had always thought that I would never ride a bike during rain/ snow/ cold. Well… This was the time to disprove this truth. In Uppsala, biking is the main way to navigate yourself in the city, no matter if it’s raining or your hands are totally freezing. We were living in the student area called Flogsta. In the beginning, you can think that Flogsta itself and the room you live in is very plain and not cozy at all. But it’s not about the room – it’s about the people and atmosphere you create in it. Just a little bit of imagination, heart and, of course, FRIENDS – and wuola – you have the best room in the world that will recover your soul from any negativity it may have compiled over the time.

Looking back right now, it’s even hard to explain how much EACH program has turned my life upside down. I met amazing people during this time and I had an experience I never thought I would have. But the most important – I love what I do, I love where I am and I am proud to be a part of EACH alumni.

On Tuesday, March 26, 2019 the web course Estimation of Measurement Uncertainty in Chemical Analysis was launched the sixth time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course)!

Currently 530 participants from more than 80 countries are registered! As was the case in the previous years, the majority of participants are from analytical laboratories. This once again demonstrates the continuing need for training in measurement uncertainty estimation for practicing analytical chemists.

The full course material is accessible from the web page https://sisu.ut.ee/measurement/uncertainty. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged measurement uncertainty calculation exercises). In order to pass the course the registered participants have to pass six graded tests and get higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform.

This course also forms a part of the measurements and chemical analysis related master programmes at UT: Applied Measurement Science and Excellence in Analytical Chemistry.


Starting from last week the Analytical chemistry group of University of Tartu has the pleasure to host Dr Monika Lindner and Hendrik van Thienen from the group of professor Benjamin List – a worldwide known guru in the field of strongly acidic catalysts working at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (Mülheim, Germany).

The purpose of their stay is to learn our pKa measurement method and set it up in Mülheim. This is the logical continuation of our group’s collaboration with the List group – the pKa values of a number of their catalysts have been measured here at Tartu (see Nature Chemistry 2018, 10, 888-894 and Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 1411-1415) – and we are glad that our pKa measurement method thereby gains even wider acceptance than it has now. We wish Monika and Hendrik all the success in learning the measurements!

(On photo, from left: Märt Lõkov, Monika Lindner and Hendrik van Thienen)



This year’s General Assembly of the Erasmus Mundus Association took place in Vienna, Austria, from 23-25 February. Our programme was represented by Nikola Obradović, EACH Programme Represantative (PR) within EMA. As always, the General Assembly brought together students from all around the world – both the current students of Erasmus Mundus Joint Master and Doctorate programmes and the alumni. Currently, around 9000 students are part of EMA!

One of the main activities of this year’s GA was the establishment of EMA as a non-government organization, with its seat in Brussels. After putting many months of hard work into establishing the legal basis of EMA as an NGO, the Steering Committee of EMA, together with its active members has had the opportunity to vote on the matters regarding the organization’s Statute and Internal Regulations.

In addition, there were many invited speakers from different organizations, both European and worldwide, who gave talks on subjects of youth, education, sustainable development goals and many more.

Apart from the legalities and “lectures”, the GA was a great opportunity for networking and cultural exchange. Even though it seemed to have passed in a fleeting second, the time was well enough for new friendships to be formed and innovative ideas to be born. One could say the whole event was one continuous brainstorming experience, filled with lots of talks on mutual projects between different programmes, countries… Of course, nothing can complement social events better than cultural food tables and gala dinners followed by traditional dances.

Are you a student or an alumnus/alumna of an Erasmus Mundus programme? Don’t hesitate – become a part of the big EMA family!

(Text: Nikola Obradović; Photo: EMA)


During 24-26.02.2019 the Suprachem 2019 conference took place at University of Würzburg (Germany). The UT Analytical chemistry chair was represented by two posters: Optimization of the reaction pathway for the synthesis of substituted 1,3-bis(carbazolyl)urea anion receptors by Alo Rüütel and Mihkel Ilisson and From receptor-anion binding ladder to ion-selective electrode by Kerli Martin, Sandip A. Kadam, Ulriika Mattinen, Johan Bobacka and Ivo Leito.

The presentation from Alo and Mihkel focused on optimization of the synthesis route of anion receptors (ionophores) based on the 1,3-bis(carbazolyl)urea building block, augmented with additional amide functionalities (see the poster). The developed synthesis route is very valuable for the synthesis of a wide variety of analogous receptors (ionophores) that have previously been demonstrated to bind carboxylates with high affinity (see K. Martin et al, Eur. J. Org. chem. 2017, 5231-5237).

Kerli Martin et al present the first practical application of such receptors: a solid-contact acetate-selective electrodes. For acetate anion the electrodes show linearity over the activity range of 10-4.50 – 10-1.10 with a sub-Nernstian slope of -51.3 mV per decade and a detection limit of 10-5.00. The anion-selectivity pattern of these electrodes deviates markedly from the pattern found in DMSO solution and from the Hofmeister pattern. The selectivity coefficients of SCN, I, NO3 and Br decrease by 3-5 orders of magnitude when adding the studied ionophore to the membrane. The selectivity coefficients of hydrophilic anions such as Cl, F, HPO42–, and SO42– are significantly lower than in case of the ionophore-free control membrane. All in all, it is clear that a lot of work is still needed for improving the selectivity of the electrode.
This work has been accepted for publication: K. Martin et al Electroanalysis 2019 (the link will work soon).

The combined contributions from our group stood out from the majority (the conference altogether had 27 oral and 111 poster presentations) by a clear line of development from fundamental research (receptor design) to highly practical application (ion-selective electrode).

(Photos: above left: Mihkel Ilisson explaining his work to Dr Diane Smith from Wiley; right: Poster by Kerli Martin et al)


A stack of papers to be read, two coffee mugs; one which reminds me of my time at Åbo, a lonely apple, a to-do list, and a pair of headphones sit on my cluttered desk. My eyes occasionally wander towards the misty view out of the 7th floor window, on a chilly December afternoon, and yet not a single mountain in sight as far as the eyes can gaze reminding me that I’m now in Wageningen – a small Dutch town – as you may have guessed from the lack of mountains. (Im)patiently sitting in the office until my supervisor reads my research proposal, it is tough not to walk down the memory lane.

Although only a few moons have passed since I arrived in The Netherlands, that spectacular journey took me halfway across the globe, from a small tropical island in South Asia, across the Atlantic to North America, and finally few hops and jumps within Europe. It would take pages after pages to pen and reminisce on the delightful things that had taken place, and the amazing souls that I’ve had the privilege of being in company with, in these mere seven odd years.

Towards the tail end of the summer of 2017, I was on a direct flight, with a mild hangover, from sunny and warm Mediterranean to far up North, where the temperature reaches so far below zero that polar bears are occasionally seen sharing saunas with people and where the sun is so elusive for half the year that the government has to put up a hologram of the sun once in a while. I may be exaggerating just a little bit. Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, I’m finally at my destination. A breath of fresh air greets me as I walk out of the airport. As numerous thoughts flood through my mind, including why on earth am I not wearing any warm clothes (because I left all of them in Estonia, duh!), I hear a familiar and friendly voice. Who could this be? Not even five minutes in a country that I’ve never been before. The voice pulls me back to reality from my la la land.

“Oh, hello!” I hear. As I turn around I see Johan, one of my future supervisors smiling at me. He’s just getting back from China. We exchange some pleasantries, and he boards an earlier bus headed to Åbo as I wait for mine to arrive. Åbo is to be my home for at least the coming year. Still a little skeptical about my choice of the 2nd year study track (electrochemistry, what was I thinking?), I too get on my bus. As we reach Åbo, the scenery outside paints a familiar picture. Just as The Emajõgi flows through Tartu, the river Aura graces Åbo. The familiarity puts my mind at a relative ease.

It did not take long for my colleagues and I to get well acquainted with Åbo. Whatever doubts we may have had vanished as soon as we started our work. Everyone in the lab and the analytical chemistry department were extremely helpful and would not hesitate to offer a helping hand whenever needed. The study program at Åbo is broken down to chewable pieces so that a complex field of study can be digested.


Sense of autonomy and flexibility are the best qualities we enjoyed during our time at Åbo. There was no one to look over our shoulders. Yet the help was available literally next door, if needed, despite how busy our supervisors were. We had several classes scattered throughout the year to lay a strong theoretical foundation, nevertheless, the majority of our time was focused on hands-on innovative research. Individual projects were assigned to each one of us, which provided us with a thorough practical grasp on electrochemistry. Thus, we were able to transition into our master thesis topics with ease.

It wasn’t just academics that made the stay in Åbo interesting. Much needed laughter and inside jokes with my officemates Jaypee and Slim, made the lab work more pleasant, which would otherwise be mundane sometimes. Random coffee breaks at 3 in the afternoon with wonderful company were a welcome addition. There were numerous celebrations, reasons for which escapes my mind at the moment, but there was definitely cake and chocolate involved. We were also very fortunate to be there when both Finland and Åbo turned a century. Needless to say, it was spectacular.

In Åbo, and in Finland in general, there was warmth and friendship to be found in every corner even during the darkest and the coldest time of the year. Plentiful days and nights have been spent with friends, whether it’s a hiking trip, a bbq, a sauna night, a pub crawl, or a board game night, the context didn’t matter. The company made all the difference. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of dancing northern lights, just outside of your apartment.



There were definitely times when I stared hopelessly at a blank document or a confusing paper or bewildering lab results, where the questions from my colleagues were met with simple grunts or incomprehensible gibberish. Now that I started my PhD, I have come to understand that this is much more common behavior in academia. Nevertheless, in the coming years, I would undeniably look back fondly at the time I spent in both Åbo and Tartu. I consider myself to be fortunate and privileged to be a part of the EACH family, not simply because of the amazing program that has evidently become a cornerstone of my career, but most importantly because of the lifelong friendships that were founded within these two years. I would not or could not have guessed that the past two years would be so monumental in my life.

But now, disrupting my train of thoughts, a reminder pops up on my screen saying I need to be at a meeting in 15 minutes. The mist outside my window is also clearing off. I need to be elsewhere soon but the memories of EACH will always be delightful and heartwarming.


LCMS Method Validation online course offered by UTOn Feb 15, 2019 the on-line course (MOOC) LC-MS Method Validation finished successfully!
Altogether 426 (424 in 2018, 303 in 2017) people were registered from 70 countries (71 in 2018, 61 in 2017) countries. 227 (236 in 2018, 224 in 2017) participants actually started the course (i.e. tried at least one graded test at least once) and out of them 125 (159 in 2018, 168 in 2017) successfully completed the course. The overall completion rate was 29% (37% in 2018, 55% in 2017). The completion rate of participants who actually started the studies was 55% (67% in 2018, 75% in 2017). As can be seen, almost all these statistics have been getting worse year after year. We are working n analysing the situation. On the positive side it can be said that the completion rates more than 0% of those who started can be considered very good by any measure. Thus we probably can be reasonably happy with the completion rate that we have this time.

As has been the usual case with our online courses, the questions from the participants were often very interesting, often addressed things that are really important to analysts in their everyday work. Such discussions made teaching this course a great experience also for us, the teachers!

We want to thank all participants for helping to make this course a success!

We plan to repeat this course again in Autumn 2019.



The 2019 edition of the web course (MOOC) Estimation of Measurement Uncertainty in Chemical Analysis will be running during Mar 26 – May 7, 2019. Registration is open!

The full course material (as well as the registration link) is accessible from the web page https://sisu.ut.ee/measurement/uncertainty. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged measurement uncertainty calculation exercises). In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to take six graded tests and get higher than 50% score in every graded test. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform. Participants who successfully pass the course will get a certificate from University of Tartu. A digital certificate of completion is free of charge. A certificate of completion on paper can be requested for a fee of 60 euros.

You are welcome to distribute this message to potentially interested people!