Bourke Award 2010 Winner

Michael Bowers
Michael Bowers
University of California

Distinguished for his seminal contributions to mass spectrometry, and to our knowledge and understanding of molecular ion chemistry and of the structures and stabilities of oligo-peptides, nucleic acids and their molecular complexes.

About the winner

I received my bachelor of science degree in Chemistry from Gonzaga University and my PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana under W. H. Flygare.  I then spent 2 years in the army as a 1st Lt. trained as an armor officer but primarily detailed to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  From there I went through the ranks as an Asst Professor, Assoc. Professor and Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California at Santa Barbara where I am currently a Professor Above Scale in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Early research involved the development and application of the ion cyclotron resonance technique including the first measurement of accurate intrinsic basicities of organic molecules.  Theory was also an interest and my group developed the first accurate methods for obtaining collisional rate constants of ions with polar molecules and the general phase space statistical theory for both unimolecular and bimolecular ionic reactions.  On two sabbatical visits to the UK (with Keith Jennings and John Beynon) I was introduced to sector mass spectrometry.  Using this experience our group developed high resolution translational energy spectroscopy and crossed ion cluster beam-laser beam methods to study photo-induced reaction dynamics, both on reverse geometry sector machines.  These efforts eventually led us to develop ion mobility based mass spectrometry (IMS-MS) with an initial focus on understanding the structural evolution of carbon clusters formed in carbon arcs.  From these data the mechanism for fullerene formation was deduced.  At present we are applying IMS-MS to amyloid forming biological systems including the A?42 peptide responsible for Alzheimer's disease, where we have recently published the composition and structure of the proximate toxic agent, and the amylin peptide responsible for the molecular basis of Type 2 Diabetes.  While our earlier efforts were usually self-contained in the research group, virtually all of our work now is collaborative with biologists, theorists and other chemists.

Our work has been recognized by a number of awards in addition to the Bourke Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  These include two by the National American Chemical Society (the Field and Franklin and the Noble Signature Awards), the Thomson Gold Medal of the International Mass Spectrometry Society and the Distinguished Contribution Award of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry.  In addition, we have been honored by three special issues in peer reviewed research journals.  At present I am a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society (inaugural class) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).  Over my career I have been privileged to work with more that 40 postdocs, 40 PhD students, many undergraduate students and numerous senior colleagues and friends.  Without these essential collaborations most of the work and recognition noted here would not have occurred.  

Related Links

Link icon The Bowers Group
Our research is centered on determination of the structure and/or reaction dynamics and mechanism of a number of exotic species in the gas phase.

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