Clint M. Alfaro wins ABC Best Paper Award
Clint M. Alfaro wins ABC Best Paper Award
Nicola Oberbeckmann-Winter 0
0 Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry , Springer, Tiergartenstrasse 17, 69121 Heidelberg , Germany
Clint M. Alfaro is a PhD candidate in analytical chemistry at
Purdue University under the supervision of Henry B. Hass
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry R. Graham Cooks. Clint
was born January 26, 1992, and grew up in Winston-Salem, NC,
USA. He graduated with honors and a B.S. in Biochemistry and
Biology from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in
2014. His current research focuses on applications of and method
development in the rapid disease-state characterization of
surgical biopsy specimens with ambient ionization MS.
The ABC Best Paper Award 2016 for outstanding work
published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (ABC) goes to
Clint M. Alfaro (25), who is author of the paper BAmbient
ionization mass spectrometric analysis of human surgical specimens
to distinguish renal cell carcinoma from healthy renal tissue,^
which describes molecular techniques—in particular, mass
specthe technique is simple, rapid, and has demonstrated good
performance in the present work and in a previous study with
prostate cancer. The technique could be used by surgeons to
test tissue for residual tumor, which is a primary concern when
treating cancer surgically.
The analysis of fresh renal tissue by touch spray–mass
spectrometry represents a significant step towards integrating
molecular measurements by ambient ionization mass
spectrometry into a method for evaluating the amount of residual tumor
left in a resection cavity.
extracting information about patient prognosis and outcome
that is hidden deep in the data and, in particular, correlating
this with genetic information, which could significantly affect
patient prognosis. After analyzing tissues from many more
patients, especially in controlled clinical trials, who knows
what other knowledge will be gained that can help to cure
Which incident/discovery has proved most valuable for
your own research?
Ambient ionization mass spectrometry, one of the many great
results from Prof. R. Graham Cooks, is the reason my PhD
work has been possible.
Which incident/discovery most inspired you during your
education and scientific career?
My PhD thesis focuses on molecular tissue diagnostics with
ambient ionization mass spectrometry. The publication (Alfaro
CM, Jarmusch AK, Pirro V et al. Anal Bioanal Chem.
2016;408:5407. doi:10.1007/s00216–016–9627-4) fits exactly
into this work, and brings the goal of integrating mass
spectrometry into surgery a step closer by showing that touch
spray–mass spectrometry is amenable to fresh tissue analysis.
How would you explain your research to children?
Cancer is a disease that can take over the body and stop it from
working correctly. If doctors catch the cancer early, they can stop
it from taking over by cutting it out of the body. During surgery, it
is sometimes difficult for doctors to tell whether something is
cancer or normal just by looking at it. My research focuses on
developing new tools that doctors can use during surgery to test
whether tissue is cancer or normal. These new tools can help the
doctor completely cut out the cancer, making the patients live
longer and potentially curing them of the disease.
What’s the trickiest problem you had to overcome in that
research? How did you solve it?
The trickiest problems have arisen from analytical chemists
trying to perform clinical research in surgery. This problem
could not have been solved without the keen cooperation of
our clinical collaborators and their teams of research
coordinators. This is especially true given that we have moved
chemical analysis into the operating room.
Where do you see your field headed, and how do you see it
influencing bioanalytical research?
I see the field moving closer and closer to directly affecting
patient care. The most exciting prospect is the possibility of
My personal discovery of the far-reaching capabilities of mass
spectrometry for studying biological systems has been most
Which recent discovery might prove most valuable to the
field of (bio)analytical research or beyond?
Mini mass spectrometers coupled with ambient ionization for
point of care diagnostics could revolutionize patient care.
What was the best/worst advice you ever received?
I have received great advice from my undergraduate advisor,
Prof. Nadja Cech, who urged me to pursue graduate studies in
I most admire my PhD advisor, Prof. R. Graham Cooks,
for his tireless dedication to the field of mass
spectrometry. He has made significant contributions to mass
spectrometry, and it is amazing that he continues to lead
successful projects in so many areas, ranging from
fundamentals and instrumentation to chemical synthesis and
What are your future plans?
I plan to pursue a career as a chemistry research faculty member
and translational scientist at a public university/medical school.