Professor Marcos Eberlin has helped changed the face of mass spectrometry in his native Brazil. But perhaps two of his chemistry teachers deserve a significant share of the credit.
“Nobody I knew liked chemistry in high school,” recalled Professor Eberlin, “Memorizing nomenclature and formulas. So boring. But my chemistry teacher, she was brilliant. A major influence on me because she was not concerned with memorization. She taught us the beauty of chemistry. Helping us to understand the fundamentals. That’s when chemistry is really amazing.”
It was a second chemistry teacher that called his attention to the great future of mass spectrometry. It proved to be a seminal moment for Professor Eberlin, eventually swaying him away from synthetic chemistry and into mass spectrometry. Indeed many could say it was a pivotal moment for mass spectrometry in Brazil.
“Twenty years ago, you could count the number of mass spectrometrists in my country on the fingers of two hands. But today, when the Brazilian Mass Spectrometry Society holds its annual meeting, many hundreds attend. Today we are developing new techniques and working on new MS applications in a truly pioneering fashion.”
As founder of the Thomson Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the University of Campinas, Professor Eberlin has guided the lab to international acclaim as a leader in the development of MS techniques and applications. He is widely known for his intense and multidisciplinary MS research. During his work on gas phase ion chemistry, he discovered a reaction that is aptly named the Eberlin Reaction, and he introduced a new desorption/ionization technique known as EASI, or Easy Ambient Sonic-spray Ionization. A Waters customer since he began his scientific career, today he relies solely on MS to untangle the complexities of his most challenging projects.
Professor Eberlin has authored over 450 scientific manuscripts, and supervised close to a hundred masters, Ph.D. and post-doctorate students. He currently supervises a group of 45 students and collaborators and is associate editor of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry and the Royal Chemistry Society’s RSC Advances. He is also the president of the International Mass Spectrometry Foundation (www.imss.nl) and vice president of the Brazilian Mass Spectrometry Society (www.brmass.com.br), whose roster has swelled to more than 1,800 members. His work has also earned him numerous awards.
What does Marcos Eberlin think about his selection to the Waters Centers of Innovation?
“It is of course a great honor,” he says. “Not just for me but for my university and my country. Brazilians are known for loving three things: fast cars, music, and soccer. But now we can be known for loving one more thing: science and more specifically, MS. My selection to the Centers of Innovation Program illustrates this love and makes me proud to be a Brazilian mass spectrometrist.”
Indeed an entire country has changed its attitudes towards MS in just over two decades, in part because of two teachers who taught a boy the beauty of chemistry and then mass spectrometry.