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Robert J. Cotter

Robert J. Cotter


We mourn the sudden and unexpected loss of our friend and colleague Robert J. Cotter who passed away Monday evening November 12, 2012 at the age of 69 of an apparent heart attack.  Bob was a distinguished scholar, teacher, and program builder in the Department of Pharmacology and one of the leading mass spectrometrists of his generation.

Born and raised in Massachusetts and a graduate of the College of Holy Cross in 1965, Bob obtained his Ph.D. from Hopkins in Chemistry in 1972 working with Walter Koski on the physical chemistry of gaseous ions. After a stint as a faculty member at Gettysburg College, Bob came back to Hopkins as a Research Associate in 1978 joining the group of his future wife Catherine Fenselau in Pharmacology.

Bob rose through the ranks to become Professor in the Department of Pharmacology in 1992 where he has continued until his untimely passing.  Bob and his research team have made major contributions to the development of methods and their applications in the area of mass spectrometry.   The contributions include the invention of a widely used time of flight curved-field reflection for ion separation, the development of miniaturized mass spectrometers for use in environmental surveys and space travel, and the creation of a technique to quantify acetylation in proteins.  Bob has been an institutional resource at Hopkins and beyond for dozens of collaborators in the area of mass spectrometry which have led to major discoveries in cancer, immune disorders, infectious diseases, and metabolic syndromes.  Bob has trained a legion of outstanding students and post-docs that now occupy leading positions throughout the world.  Bob was a former president of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry and a recipient of the Franklin and Field Medal of the American Chemical Society for his seminal contributions to mass spectrometry.

In addition to his beloved Catherine, Bob is survived by his mother, 5 siblings, 3 children, and 4 grandchildren.  Among his many interests Bob loved to bike and hike on the C and O Canal towpath. 

A Hopkins memorial service is being planned for a future date.  Details will be forthcoming.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to C & O Canal Association, P.O. Box 366, Glen Echo, MD  20812,

One of the ACS 2011 National Award Winners:  Robert won the Frank H. Field & Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry sponsored by Waters Corporation.   Recipients were honored at an Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, March 29, 2011, in conjunction with the 241st ACS National Meeting in Anaheim, CA.  Congratulations, Robert!


Featured in the January 3, 2011 issue of CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS under the Awards Section, Robert is listed as one of the 2011 ACS National Award Winners

Recipient of the 2009 ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Chemical Instrumentation sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company.  There was an award ceremony and symposium held at the 238th ACS National Meeting in Washington, D.C. from August 16-20, 2009.  Congratulations, Robert!

Featured in a Hopkins press release on February 15, 2007, entitled, "Medical School's Mass Spec Experts Aid Search for Life on Mars."

The May 9, 2003 issue of SCIENCE E-NEWSLETTER reported that Robert Cotter, Wayne Bryden and Scott Ecelberger of the Applied Physics Laboratory's Research and Technology Development Center, have received one of APL's three "Invention of the Year" awards. The team developed technology that combines both chemical and biological sample measurements in a single, time-of-flight mass spectrometer to dramatically reduce detection and identification times. 

JOHNS HOPKINS Magazine published an article featuring Robert in their February 2003 issue entitled, "A Pint-ized System for Detecting Bioagents."  

In the October 18, 2004 issue of THE JHU GAZETTEPhilip Cole, Robert Cotter, Dongxia Wang, Heng Zhu and other JHU faculty are featured in an article entitled, "Geneticist gets Roadmap grant."  This incredible team of researchers received a five-year $17 million grant under the National Institutes of Health's Roadmap for Medical Research to develop new technologies to comprehensively examine proteins' interactions in systems ranging from yeast to human cells. 

In the June 2003 issue of GENOMICS & PROTEOMICSRobert is on the cover and also featured in an article entitled, "Making the Most of Mass Spectrometry".