The mass spectrometer has often been described as a “complete chemical laboratory”, and has played a critical role in the development and understanding of many scientific principles. These range from J.J. Thompson's discovery of the electron and the development of quantum theory to the determination of entire genomes and proteomics research. Arguably one of the most interesting contributions that mass spectrometry has made is in the detailed understanding of the physical chemistry of noncovalently bound complex ions. This includes the determination of thermochemistry, ion–molecule reactivities, and ion structure. In our lab, we use many mass spectrometric techniques such as collision induced dissociation (CID), ion–molecule reactions, blackbody infrared radiative dissociation (BIRD), as well as the more direct infrared multiple photon dissociation (IRMPD) spectroscopy to determine ion structures and energetics of ion-molecule reactions. I will explain some of the techniques that we use in my laboratory to study the physical chemistry of non-covalent cluster ions using examples such as metal ion bound complexes of uracil, metal ion nucleated guanine tetrads and quadruplexes, and if time permits, halogen bonded complexes.
Travis Fridgen is currently Professor and Head in the Department of Chemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. His research group studies the energetics, reactions, and structures of gaseous ion self-assembled complexes composed of metal ions and biologically relevant molecules such as DNA bases, amino acids, and peptides using a combination of mass spectrometry, tunable infrared lasers, and computational chemistry. Their research is aimed at answering fundamental questions such as why K+ is associated with guanine quadruplexes such as telomeric DNA. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in chemistry from Trent University and a B.Ed. from Queen’s University. His Ph.D. in physical chemistry is from Trent and Queen’s Universities (with Professor Mark Parnis), where he studied the spectroscopy of reactive species in a cryogenic matrix environment. During his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Waterloo (with Terry McMahon), he first began conducting research using mass spectrometric methods. During a brief period as an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, he initiated a collaboration with a group of researchers from France to spectroscopically determine structures of gas phase proton-bound dimer ions. He teaches courses in physical chemistry, but he has mostly taught first-year chemistry courses (at Trent, Waterloo, Laurier, and Memorial).