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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Maryland Opens Core Facility for Small Molecule Analysis Available to Area Researchers

The University of Maryland in July opened a new lab facility to analyze tiny molecules within human or environmental bio-samples. The Exposome Small Molecule Core Facility in the School of Public Health “is equipped with a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge liquid chromatograph tandem mass spectrometer (LC-MS/MS) that enables researchers to quantify these chemicals at part per trillion levels,” said Amir Sapkota, associate professor in the school’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and director of the new core facility. “It puts us at a whole different level. For instance, researchers … will be able to leverage this facility to make their grant applications more competitive.”

The facility is already supporting the work of several researchers within the UMD School of Public Health and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. However, the goal is to open the doors to the larger campus community and to the university’s many research partners.

A priority at the Exposome Small Molecule Core Facility will be to provide service at rates that are competitive with other facilities in the region, and to create an interface online and in the lab that is client-friendly, Murphy said. “I’ve been keeping in contact with P.I.s who would be primary users, and they are now beginning to write new proposals with this facility in mind,” Dr. Angus Dr. Murphy, professor and chair of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and one of the faculty members responsible for the creation of the Core facility, said.

“Science becomes expensive, and requires instrumentation that is beyond the reach of individual investigators,” Murphy said, making it important to create facilities that are useful across disciplines. “Increasingly funding agencies and faculty expect that you will provide core services: genome sequencing, proteomics, the ability to measure small molecules with big throughput.”

The Exposome Small Molecule Core Facility can analyze chemicals and their metabolites in a variety of natural products, environmental samples and human bio-samples. The identification and quantitation of trace level contaminants in complex matrices, including food, air, water, soil and bio-fluids (blood, urine, saliva, hair etc.) presents a formidable analytical challenge to basic laboratory scientists, exposure scientists and epidemiologists. Acquisition of the new LC-MS/MS enables researchers to quantify these chemicals at part per billion to part per trillion levels with high precision and accuracy.

The Core facility was created with financial contributions from UMD’s School of Public Health, Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Vice President for Research, and the Provost. The equipment was procured from Agilent Technology, which also provided additional support.

“We are here, and we are open for business,” Dr. Sapkota said.

Technical specifications and a table of service rates is available at http://sph.umd.edu/laboratory-resources/exposome-small-molecule-core-facility.  For more information and to request a quote, please contact exposome@umd.edu