Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unnecessary reminder that Charlottesville is awesome!

Like just about everyone in the world, I'm shocked and saddened by what put a rural town in Virginia in the spotlight this weekend. I'll be honest -- I'm also really really angry and I hope we can all focus these emotions here into motivation to get things back on track. 

When I think of Charlottesville, I don't want the first thing to come to my mind to be what happened this weekend. And I don't want it to be for you either -- so here are some unnecessary reminders that Charlottesville is and has been an awesome hub for science! 

I'm going to start this post like this -- some guy named Don Hunt is there!!! -- AND he's been there for kind of a while.

Some decent science has come out of the Hunt lab in Charlottesville, I'm having trouble coming up with anything off the top of my head, but I think there are a couple (come on, brain...)

-- Oh wait --- here's one

  --- ETD!  Electron transfer dissociation -- a strategy essential to many proteomics experiments today for PTMs and intact proteins -- and heck, regular big 'ol peptides came from that little town.

--hmmm...there was this other kind-of-important paper -- I can't remember what it was called -- wait! was it called PROTEIN SEQUENCING BY TANDEM MASS SPECTROMETRY!?!?

Might have been the one I'm thinking of....though, I swear I was thinking of something that everybody is trying to do right now that even with today's tools, software, and super computers is still really hard to do -- wait -- was it MHC peptidomics?!?

I can go on and on with this. Work from the Hunt lab in Charlottesville has been cited in over 47,000 other studies. (Google Scholar numbers this morning).

Of course this hasn't been Dr. Hunt toiling alone in a little closet lab in that scenic mountain town. In 2007 ACS reported over 130 grad students and postdocs had trained in the Hunt lab -- I've had the privilege to work with several and among them have been some of the very best mass spectrometrists I've ever met -- some of these students have went on to do amazingly impactful research in labs of their own, names like (in no particular order, and just a few chosen off of the top of my head -- no disses intended! The Hunt lab either doesn't recruit or release dummies.) 

John Yates III
Josh Coon
Ben Garcia
Trixie Ueberheide
John Syka

...all passed through Charlottesville. No joke -- according to Scholar you're looking at something in the range of 150,000 to 200,000 citations from just the work of these authors alone!

I do have to mention that the chemistry department isn't the only place in Charlottesville with a mass spectrometer. The UVA School of Medicine has a top-notch core facility open to internal and external customers. Proof? De novo protein sequencing is just listed as a service. I've visited. They know what they're doing! 

It is also worth noting that some of John Fenn's earliest work on ion beams was done in collaboration with John Scott in Charlottesville (as noted in Dr. Fenn's Nobel Biography here

Look -- this post is probably dumb -- but if this helps to remind anyone that Charlottesville, VA is a place that can be directly linked to some of the most impactful science (IMHO) of the last half century rather than just a place associated with the deplorable acts of last weekend, then I haven't wasted all my pre-work time this morning! 


  1. Thank you for your kind words Ben.
    Our town deserves better. Suffice it to say,
    our students and post-docs have made us proud.

  2. I agree with Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas who said, “This is not our story. Outsiders do not tell our story. We will tell our own story.” Amen. And thank you, Ben, for helping to do just that. - Melanie (Schroeder) Patterson, Hunt lab graduate.

  3. one more paper to be proud of https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11875433
    Nat Biotechnol. 2002 Mar;20(3):301-5.
    Phosphoproteome analysis by mass spectrometry and its application to Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

    Ficarro SB1, McCleland ML, Stukenberg PT, Burke DJ, Ross MM, Shabanowitz J, Hunt DF, White FM.
    Author information1
    Department of Chemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22901, USA.

  4. Yeah! I ran out of time for typing -- what a HUGE impact that paper has had on our field!

  5. I was saddened to hear about the horrific events that occurred in C'ville. This town is incredible for many things including the science you mentioned, so thank you Ben for the reminder.
    Benjamin Garcia (UPenn)

  6. prof premraj pushpakaran writes -- 2017 marks the 100th birth year of John B. Fenn !!!!