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The Moment

First spectra show game-changing potential of new capabilities

Dr. Don Smith, photo
EMSL postdoctoral researcher Dr. Don Smith is part of an international team that developed this novel mass spectrometer, the first spectra of which was generated in February 2011.

It's sort of a pop-culture cliché: a scientist or scientific team pours heart, soul, and countless hours into a project—nearly to the point of obsession—until The Moment arrives. The first result comes; the instrument works; the data make sense; the code does its job. Whatever the exact fabric of The Moment, it's exactly what the scientist was hoping for—or it's unexpected in an even more interesting way.

While this scene surfaces in the movies, it isn't always how science works in the real world. Often, incremental progress is the norm, and breakthroughs can be more cumulative. However, in the past few months, two EMSL scientists working on separate projects experienced The Moment. Each generated their very first spectra on new, unprecedented scientific instruments they had been developing for months. While they may not have shouted "Eureka," their reactions show the importance of these first results to their respective scientific fields: imaging mass spectrometry and surface nonlinear spectroscopy.

Like all of EMSL's experimental and computational tools, the C60 SIMS FT-ICR MS and new surface nonlinear spectroscopy capabilities are available at no cost to the global scientific community through EMSL's user proposal process.

Learn more about EMSL's mass spectrometry and spectroscopy and diffraction capabilities.

Do you have a story of a big scientific "Moment" from your career? Let us know at, and we'll include some of your responses in the next Molecular Bond.