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The Proton Ionization Molecular Mass Spectrometry project “PIMMS”

A four year intersectoral and interdisciplinary training programme for Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in analytical chemistry from 2012 to 2016

By early 2016, 15 young scientists will become available for the job market all of whom have unique portfolios of interdisciplinary and intersectoral technical, business and personal skills, making them highly employable within the growing knowledge-based job market in Europe. According to the project coordinator Dr. Chris Mayhew from the University of Birmingham, this is the major and most important outcome of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network “PIMMS”.

We asked Chris to look back at PIMMS but also to tell us what’s coming up after this very successful ITN project:

“When I was preparing an application to the EU for training Early Stage Researchers in the technique of Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) the quote Nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the application of a new instrument by Sir Humphrey Davy came to my mind. PTR-MS has truly advanced our understanding of bioscience, atmospheric chemistry and food sciences, to name but a few areas of application. It is a unique instrument and thus the resulting increase in the use of PTR-MS technology and the growth in its applications was outstripping the supply of suitably qualified scientists. I considered that there was an urgent need within the EU to have skilled scientists who have both a comprehensive analytical training and a more focused training in PTR-MS, who are capable of leading multidisciplinary research activities, so that the EU continued its leadership in this field. In 2011 we were successful in obtaining EU funding for PIMMS.”

2 full partners and four associate partners are working together, helping the ESRs to develop the skills necessary for the use of primarily PTR-MS, but also other more traditional analytical techniques (e.g. GC-MS and Ion Mobility Spectrometry). ESRs have been provided with extensive training in instrument optimization, communications and other transferable skills. Four key analytical areas are being addressed in PIMMS, namely the environmental, food and health sciences and homeland security.

The programme has resulted in a number of significant impacts, including an enhanced understanding of ion-molecule chemistry which has been used to improve instrumental selectivity, development of particulate sampling systems for atmospheric chemistry and homeland security applications, and new breath sampling systems which have resulted in spectacular findings of importance to disease screening.

PIMMS ESR communication training

“Unfortunately, the PIMMS programme is soon coming to an end, with many ESRs leaving the network by the end of 2015, Chris reflects and continues: “Through the dedication of all involved in PIMMS, from the supervisors and ESRs through to project partners, the programme has resulted in a coherent, integrated network of analytical scientists developing and exploiting PTR-MS technology. This has resulted in PIMMS being highly recommended by the EU.”

Although PIMMS ends in 2015, we have been successful in obtaining further EU funding for a new ITN entitled “Ion-Molecule Processes for Analytical Chemistry Technologies” or simply IMPACT. Chris Mayhew is again the coordinator and his goal is to make it another success story: “The idea is to continue the legacy of PIMMS, with the aim to bring cohesion to the fragmented soft chemical ionisation mass spectrometry research and development activities within the EU. IMPACT will train 10 ESRs within an integrated partnership of commercial, governmental and academic organisations.”

We from IONICON will again be part of this training network and look forward to working with Chris, our partners and 10 talented ESRs to join us in our mission to provide ultra-sensitive solutions for real-time trace gas analysis.

PIMMS meeting in Innsbruck, at IONICON