Dr. Ernesto de Jesus Zapata Flores – PhD thesis on LC-MS derivatization reagents

Last Wednesday, August 30th, 2023, a moment that marks the culmination of years of hard work and determination of Ernesto de Jesus Zapata Flores – an AMS alumnus. He successfully defended his PhD thesis titled Derivatization Reagents used in negative mode electrospray LC-MS. The opponent was Associate Professor Jeffrey Hawkes from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

In the vast application of derivatization reagents in RPLC-UV and RPLC-MS positive mode, Ernesto’s thesis delved into the question: What about LC-MS negative mode? Why don’t we compare both modes and see the best of both worlds?

Firstly, the thesis has been inspired by DEEMM – a commercial reagent – which also was one of the earliest reagents studied in our department. The comparison of the ionization mode in the determination of free amino acids in beers showed that (1) the matrix effects were less severe in the negative mode.

Later on, the method applying two azobenzene-based reagents, which were called AzoB and AzoC  (synthesized in our lab), has been fully developed specifically for LC-QqQ. The “gourmet” part that Ernesto has brought to the table of the analytical chemistry community was the study of (2) MS/MS fragmentations of all three reagents with different amino compounds in both ionization modes.

Moreover, his thesis has demonstrated comprehensive research about (3) optimization for the derivatization process and the ion source, (4) the confirmation of reaction yields, and (5) the correlation between ionization efficiency and LOD/LOQ of derivatives. Finally, applications of the validated method (7) for real-world samples (different beverages: beers, Kali, juices) and (8) neutral loss scan have been showcased.

Alongside the road, (9) side reactions managed to be worth some of his sweat and tears. At the end of his PhD journey, he (10) evaluated an identification tool using the transition of derivatives in both MS polarities.

10 out of 10 – that should be given for Ernesto’s dedication on the road to becoming an expert in LC-MS derivatization. Congratulations, Ernesto! We eagerly await your next academic steps. Hopefully, all your goals will be achieved.

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