14 September 2015

Doing long-distance science

Left: In Oklahoma, chemists Smita Mohanty (pointing) and Mohiuddin Ovee check data coming from the MagLab. Right: In Tallahassee, NMR technician Ashley Blue inserts the chemists' sample into the magnet.

Scientists work on a MagLab experiment

This week at the lab, a pair of chemists are conducting a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiment ... from halfway across the country.

Oklahoma State University chemistry professor Smita Mohanty and postdoc Mohiuddin Ovee have been spending several weeks collecting NMR data on a membrane protein that plays a critical role in the proper function of living organisms. The data is helping them create two- and three-dimensional images of the protein and determine its structure, work that may shed light on a serious genetic defect in humans that is associated with the protein.

Thanks to special software and expert on-site support from MagLab technician Ashley Blue, Mohanty and Ovee are collecting data in real time from an 800 MHz NMR magnet located in Tallahassee, Florida, without ever leaving the Sooner state. About 10 percent of scientists who conduct experiments in our NMR magnets do their research remotely.

Mohanty said the process was user-friendly and efficient, with Blue on hand to handle any snafus. “It was amazing that we could tune the probe, shim the magnet and calibrate other parameters on the magnet located at the MagLab while sitting in our computer at Oklahoma State University,” said Mohanty, who is conducting her first experiment at the facility.

Tim Cross, director of the MagLab's NMR Facility, said this kind of long-distance science is increasingly common. "As NMR instruments become more expensive, it is more important for users to transition to running experiments remotely in state-of-the-art facilities like those at the MagLab," he said.


Photos: Courtesy SMITA MOHANTY (above left); STEPHEN BILENKY (above right) / Text by KRISTEN COYNE

Last modified on 17 September 2015