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An entertaining program at ISCC/GC×GC

Wednesday, 10 June 2015 at 11:23:AM

ISCC and GCxGC symposiumWhat’s the link between GC×GC–MS and US presidents? The answer to this strange question was explained at last month’s 39th International Symposium on Capillary Chromatography and the 12th GC×GC Symposium (ISCC/GC×GC) in Fort Worth, Texas.

This is a regular conference for us at Markes, as it always features a high standard of presentations in a jam-packed programme. This year was no different – thanks to the excellent organisation by Professor Daniel Armstrong of the University of Texas at Arlington, with support from Danielle Schug. They deserve huge congratulations for their work, which of course featured an excellent social program, including a trip to the rodeo!

Using US presidents’ names to explain GC×GC–MS

As usual, there was a GC×GC short course before the conference, attracting a record 30 delegates. Jean-Marie (John) Dimandja once again made his illuminating analogy between GC×GC–MS and the naming of US presidents.

This involves imagining a ‘separation’ technique called namography and an ‘identification’ technique called alphabetography, and using them to separate individual components (presidents’ names) from complex mixtures. Other gurus in the field used slightly more conventional teaching aids, but their concise overviews of GC×GC troubleshooting, data-processing and applications were no less instructive!

The GC×GC symposium proper then kicked off the following day, with ISCC running in parallel from the day after. Both programs featured sessions on instrument development, as well as wide-ranging application areas, including food & flavour, petrochemical and environmental analyses. Notably, the application area of ‘health’ gained more attention this year, with several presentations on the identification of biomarkers in bodily fluids for early detection of disease and infection.

Modulation devices were another hot topic, with novel designs in thermal, flow and pattern modulation being discussed by a number of speakers. A fascinating lecture by John Seeley (Oakland University) – GC×GC Separations with Pattern Modulation – left us in no doubt as to why he was the recipient of this year’s GC×GC Lifetime Achievement Award.

An emotional trip down memory lane

I found the entire conference extremely enjoyable, but one moment stood out as an absolute highlight. The Golay Award lecture by Professor Harold McNair (Virginia Tech) was one of the most riveting (and emotional) presentations I have ever had the pleasure of attending.

Professor McNair quite literally ‘wrote the book’ on GC (Basic Gas Chromatography, 1960) so was an excellent guide to the early history of the technology. His presentation, The Early Days in GC: 1957–1962, was an interesting, thought-provoking, and often humorous, trip down memory lane.

At the end of his lecture, Professor McNair received a well-deserved standing ovation – and when he was congratulated by Marjike, his wife of over 50 years, I’m not ashamed to say there were a few tears in the audience (I wasn’t the only one!).

What’s next for ISCC/GC×GC?

The ISCC/GC×GC conference has always alternated between European and US meetings, so it is set to return to the beautiful surroundings of Riva del Garda, Italy, in the summer of 2016. Historically, the US version changes location, but it stands as testament to the excellent organisation this year that Fort Worth will once again be the chosen venue in 2017. I’ll just have to remember to take a woolly hat and scarf next time to endure the frosty air-conditioning!

Laura McGregor

P.S. We of course had our own presentation at ISCC/GC×GC! This year we talked about how advances in time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF MS) can help to bridge the information gap between mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Click here to download the presentation.


Laura McGregor gained her Ph.D. in Environmental Forensics from the University of Strathclyde, UK, where she used GC×GC–TOF MS to ‘chemically fingerprint’ environmental contaminants. She joined Markes in 2013 as a Sales Support Specialist, and is now Product Marketing Manager for Markes’ TOF MS products.


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