Using an advanced technique, scientists discover that one of the most common substances in our everyday lives — glass — is more complex than we thought.

This week at the lab, Patricia Medeiros is fishing for answers using one of the lab’s ion cyclotron resonance (ICR) magnets.

Medeiros (pictured above, standing at right, with her grad students), an assistant professor of marine organic geochemistry at the University of Georgia (UGA), arrived Monday morning with one colleague, two graduate students, dozens of water samples from estuaries around Georgia’s Sapelo Island, and lots of questions. The team will spend the week analyzing the molecular composition of the dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the water, using the ICR Facility’s 9.4 tesla passively shielded magnet.

In collaboration with UGA microbiologist Mary Ann Moran, Medeiros is studying what different communities of bacteria are doing with this DOM. They are particularly interested in how bacteria chemically transform carbon from the ocean, a key step in the marine carbon cycle that is still not well understood.

That knowledge could help us understand and better prepare for future changes in the climate, said Medeiros. "We don’t know too much about how microbes interact with DOM. We do know that DOM plays an important role in the global carbon cycle, however."


By Kristen Coyne.

To learn about our planet’s paleoclimate, a MagLab scientist goes underground.

Atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) provides ultrahigh resolving power (m/Δm50% > 1,000,000 at m/z 500) and sub-ppm mass error (50 ppb) required to identify nickel porphyrin isotopes for unambiguous elemental composition assignment. We also report the first simultaneous identification and categorization of both vanadyl and nickel porphyrins in the same sample, without prior sample fractionation.

This week at the lab, Ella Morton is heading to New Orleans to attend the bi-annual Ocean Sciences Meeting, her first scientific conference. She is pretty excited: Her suitcase has been packed for months with her mermaid painting, favorite story book, and My Little Pony.

At age 5, she's too young to drive the six hours from Tallahassee to the Big Easy. Luckily, her dad, MagLab geochemist Peter Morton, is going, too, and, as a father of four, is an experienced chauffeur.

Morton is able to bring Ella (child #3) to the conference, where he and his undergrad students will present data on the flow of micronutrients in the ocean, thanks to a MagLab Dependent Care Travel Grant. Launched as a diversity initiative in 2006 and funded by the Florida State University Office of Research, the program helps cover the cost of caring for children or other dependents so that MagLab staff can travel to conferences and MagLab users can come here to conduct experiments.

The financial and logistical strain of raising a family and establishing a career can weigh on young scientists. Last year, Morton was away from home for more than four months, including a 75-day expedition to the North Pole. Whenever possible, Morton brings one of his children, ages 3 to 11, on the road with him. The benefits are many: it eases the burden on his wife, allows him to spend one-on-time with his children, and exposes his kids to the life of a scientist.

"People are paying more attention to the fact that scientists aren't just hard-core data managers and idea generators, but that they have a life outside of science," said Morton. "It makes me feel better about my chosen field."

Increasingly, scientific conferences offer camps or other childcare for kids of participants, and Morton has noticed more of his colleagues bringing wee ones in tow. Youngsters get to watch mom or dad on the job and learn more about what scientists do. Watching her father present his poster at a recent meeting helped his oldest daughter give a better presentation at her middle school science fair, he said.

"I really appreciate this shift in attitude," said Morton, "where there's more infrastructure and attention given to parents and families who want to stay engaged in the science and their personal lives."


Text by Kristen Coyne / Photo by Jennifer Morton

The facilities of the geochemistry group are available to outside users on a cost recovery basis. Pilot projects and student use are done at reduced costs.

Our Facilities

Facilities include a clean room to keep samples free of contamination.

At wprk in the clean room.

The Earth's Mantle

Our research areas includes source composition of and fractionation in oceanic basalts.

Collecting samples of basalts.

Powerful Tools

Our instruments include this fully automated 9 collector Finnigan MAT 262 mass spectrometer.

Finnigan MAT 262 mass spectrometer.

Mercury Research

Our group studies mercury isotopes to determine the cycling and behavior of mercury in fish and elsewhere in the environment.

Collecting samples of mercury in fish.

Quality Instrumentation

Our first-class tools include this Element2 ICP mass spectrometer.

 Element2 ICP mass spectrometer.

The geochemistry group's research is centered around the use of trace elements and isotopes to understand Earth processes and the environment in the broadest sense.

A lot of the research conducted in powerful magnets ends up having a powerful effect on our day-to-day lives.

MagLab scientist Yang Wang joins an expedition to unearth the oldest woolly rhino fossils ever found.

Jennifer Stern, a Florida State University graduate and MagLab alum, is a scientist on the Earth-based crew that monitors and directs Curiosity, the space rover now rumbling over the Red Planet more than 34 million miles away.

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