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Robert Cotter Awarded for Contributions in Mass Spectrometry

Robert Cotter (left) was presented his award
at the 59th annual ASMC Conference.

June 2011-- The American Society for Mass Spectrometry presented Robert Cotter, Ph.D. with the 2011 Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry award for his invention and development of tandem time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Mass spectrometry is a technique used to identify individual components in unknown samples and to analyze known chemical samples in exquisite detail.

Cotter, professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences and director of the Middle Atlantic Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, was presented the award, $10,000 and a recognition plaque, at the 59th annual ASMS Conference in Denver, Colorado on Monday, June 6, at the Wells Fargo Theatre.

Cotter has been building mass spectrometers since he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins in the Chemistry department at Homewood in the early 1970s. In 1993, he assembled the first design of a time-of-flight mass spectrometer, in which a sample is blasted into bits with a laser in an electric field and the resulting particles go tearing out of the field down a long tube. The lightest particles reach the end of the tube first and the heaviest particles last. There, a plate catches the particles and a detector determines how fast it takes each particle to get to the plate. The information is then converted into a chart that displays a range of masses, known as the spectrum, which can be compared to spectra from other known particles of the same mass to identify an unknown material.

Cotter also recently received the American Chemical Society’s Analytical Division Award in Chemical Instrumentation and the ACS Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award.

--Vanessa McMains

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