An Oregon State University’s professor is among the Top 60 analytical scientists in the world, according to a magazine that should know. It's called The Analytical Scientist.
Richard van Breemen made the magazine's Power List 2020 and 2021. His work in biomedical mass spectrometry earned him an initial spot, and he clocked in the Top 100 analytical scientists from around the world on the Power List 2021.
“It’s a result of wonderful students and collaborators,” van Breemen said. “It’s been a very rewarding field.”
Van Breemen runs a lab in the Linus Pauling Institute and the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the OSU College of Pharmacy. He has mentored nearly 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and directs a training grant that supports the education of the next generation of experts in natural products for human health.
Put simply, mass spectrometry is a technique used to weigh molecules in a substance. It can be applied to pretty much anything, and one thing van Breemen researches is the discovery of drugs from botanicals, and examining the safety and efficacy of botanical dietary supplements.
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“Mass spectrometers are used to answer research questions,” he said. “What is in a chemical substance and how much is present? It can tell about structures and sequences of proteins, chemical reactions and more.”
Van Breemen's laboratory is currently working on a project for OSU's Global Hemp Innovation Center, determining if there are any cannabinoids in cow's milk or sheep fed spent hemp, that is, hemp stalks after CBD extraction.
Van Breemen was nominated to the Power List by his peers and selected by a judging panel. Only 10 analytical scientists per continent, excluding Antarctica, were chosen in 2020.
The researcher became fascinated with science growing up because of influences from his parents and grandfather. His grandfather achieved the first Ph.D. in physiology in Iowa, and his parents met in chemistry while they were in college, he said.
But his academic career didn't start with chemistry. Or even science.
Van Breemen originally planned to go to college to play the oboe, then switched to computer science and finally landed on chemistry. He earned his undergraduate chemistry degree at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio — a liberal arts college maybe better known for its music conservatory. He completed his Ph.D. in pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in mass spectrometry at John Hopkins as well.
After receiving his doctorate and carrying out postdoctoral research, van Breemen taught chemistry at North Carolina State University and medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. He joined OSU in 2018.
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.