Nobel Prize-winning chemist to speak at the Fargo Theater

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dudley Herschbach is scheduled to present “Electrospray Wings for Molecular Elephants” on Wednesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the NDSU College of Science and Mathematics’ Community Lectureship Series.

Herschbach is the Frank B. Baird Jr. professor of science emeritus at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. He received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1986.  His talk will celebrate the career of fellow prizewinner John Fenn, creator of a revolutionary electrospray ionization method. Fenn’s expertise in jet propulsion and supersonic molecular flow led him to try a project many researchers considered impossible: develop a means to weigh, via mass spectrometry, individual proteins or other macromolecules.

“In instruments, such as mass spectrometers, that measure the mass of molecules, it is important to get molecules ionized and into the gas phase,” said Greg Cook, NDSU professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry, “this is extremely difficult with super large molecules like proteins as they don’t vaporize.”

Fenn developed an electrospray method that produces intact ions of very large molecules without fragmentation, enabling mass spectroscopy of remarkably high resolution and sensitivity.  “In essence, it ‘gives wings to elephants’ and makes them fly in the gas phase,” Cook said, referring to the talk’s title. “He is able to do this without blowing the ‘elephants’ apart.”  The method, related to the technique used to paint automobiles, enormously impacted the pharmaceutical industry, molecular biology and forensic analysis.  In 2002, Fenn received the Nobel Prize at age 85. Most of his electrospray work came after he was required to retire. Fenn died in 2010.

The event is sponsored by the NDSU College of Science and Mathematics.

For more information and special accommodation needs, contact Keri Drinka at 701-231-6131 orkeri.drinka@ndsu.edu.

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