Analytical science in Switzerland and ANAKON 2011
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As a tool for providing quantitative and qualitative information at the elemental or molecular level, analytical science is nowadays closely integrated with a variety of fields, for example, chemistry, biology, medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, and environmental sciences. There are two aspects of modern analytical science: the first focuses on research and development of new instrumentation and applications; the second one applies and optimizes the use of commercially available instrumentation to support environmental, biological, or medical research, in particular, in the “omics” fields. With increasing performance, lower cost, and robustness of use, analytical tools have, over the years, become a commodity, but significantly more training is required to use them efficiently. To avoid dependence on commercially driven instrument development, there is a strong need to support independent fundamental research. For example, analytical tools are essential to measure and identify, in real time, molecules involved in a biological process, and mass spectrometry is a unique tool for gathering this information. Unfortunately, the analyst is very reliant on the features implemented by the manufacturers. What counts is not only the generation of large sets of data but also improving the quality and the reliability of the measurements to finally transform it into knowledge. Development of innovative analytical tools and applications has become a multidisciplinary topic of research that requires a large range of expertise involving chemistry, physics, biology, and informatics; academic institutions should still be major participants in this work. Innovative public-funded research will not only enable progress in other areas but will also drive high-level education of new young scientists.
The first part of this double special issue includes nine original papers and one review; these provide a snapshot of the breadth of analytical science performed in Switzerland, covering both fundamental aspects and applications. Interestingly, as reflected in this issue, mass spectrometry as a detector is widely available in most areas. In Switzerland, several academic institutions are contributing to education and research in analytical science. Important participants are the Universities of Applied Sciences (Eastern Switzerland, Northwestern, Sion, and Zürich), the cantonal Universities (Bern, Fribourg, Genève, Neuchâtel, Lausanne, and Zürich), and the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (Lausanne and Zürich). Switzerland also has a very strong chemical and pharmaceutical industry, and private and public laboratories in which many scientists rely on analytical science in their day-to-day projects, although few research papers are published from that community despite the very high quality of the work performed.
The second part of this double special issue presents nine original papers related to research presented at ANAKON 2011. This conference, which is organized by the German, Swiss, and Austrian Chemical Societies, is one of the largest and most important meetings in Europe in analytical science and related areas. It was, for the first time, organized in Switzerland, on the Hönggerberg campus of the ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich). ANAKON 2011 was a big success, with over 500 scientists participating, and over 20 companies exhibiting their products and services. With sessions on separation science, miniaturization, sensors, bioanalysis, spectroscopy, nanoanalysis and imaging, elemental analysis, industrial and process analysis, environmental analysis, and instrumentation, the program was packed with state-of-the-art research and development. The articles in the “ANAKON” part of this special issue do not cover the entire spectrum of presentations given during the meeting, but give a good indication of the innovative spirit in analytical science.