Distinguished Contribution

Award Nominations

Nominations are due November 30.  Award Nomination Form 2015 FILL-IN PDF

2015 Recipient:  Brian Chait


Dr. Brian T. Chait is awarded the 2015 ASMS Award for a Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry for the recognition and demonstration of the link between protein structure and conformation and electrospray ionization mass spectra.

Dr. Chait’s discovery that a protein’s solution phase conformation impacts its electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) charge state distribution (CSD) blasted away the barriers isolating mass spectrometry from its ability to probe higher order macromolecular structures and fostered a continuing deluge of applications of MS to noncovalent assemblies, hydrogen/deuterium exchange, probes of gas-phase protein structure, and ultimately “native mass spectrometry.”

Today, interpreting ESI-MS and MS/MS data for proteins examined from native solutions often begins from NMR or crystal structures, based on assumptions that the gas-phase structure will not be too distant. But 24 years ago there was no expectation that relationships from higher order solution structure could be retained in the gas phase and any such assumption would have been foolhardy. The Chait laboratory opened the world to this possibility, first by demonstrating that electrosprayed cytochrome c molecules assumed about twice as much charge when sprayed from pH 2.6 than from pH 5.2 H2O (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 112, 9012 (1990)), by probing conformational changes in proteins via hydrogen/deuterium exchange (Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 5, 214 (1991)), and by monitoring solution-phase thermal denaturation processes by ESI-MS (Anal. Chem. 65, 1, (1993)).

Dr. Chait’s achievement must be viewed from the perspective of mass spectrometry in 1990 when few of us were capable of spraying 100% aqueous solutions, or did we see a need for it. For some of us an organic sheath solvent (or make-up flow) reduced surface tension enough to complete our analyses; others simply added methanol directly. However, Chowdhury and Chait (Anal. Chem. 63, 1660 (1991)) demonstrated that electropolished needles could electrospray water at voltages sufficiently below those inducing dielectric breakdown. That ability to electrospray 100% H2O was key to observing the charge state distribution differences associated with natively folded proteins. Equally important was Dr. Chait’s ability to rationalize and prove that the source of the observed CSD difference had to be solution-phase structure.

We know so little about electrospray ionization today; we knew even less 25 years ago, yet the ideas that Dr. Chait precisely articulated about the electrospray CSD/conformation relationship were a turning point for biological mass spectrometry.

Dr. Brian T. Chait is the Head of the Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry and Gaseous Ion Chemistry and a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor at The Rockefeller University, New York, NY.



Past Recipients


2014: Richard M. Caprioli
2013: Richard D. Smith
2012: Catherine C. Fenselau
2011: Robert J. Cotter
2010: Marvin L. Vestal
2009  Simon J. Gaskell and Vicki H. Wysocki
2008: Alexander Makarov
2007: Jesse L. (Jack) Beauchamp
2006: R. Graham Cooks
2005: James A. McCloskey
2004: Michael T. Bowers
2003: Fred McLafferty
2002: William Henzel, John Stults, Colin Watanabe
2001: George C. Stafford, Jr.
2000: Boris Aleksandrovich Mamyrin
1999: Melvin Comisarow and Alan G. Marshall
1998: David A. Dahl and Don C. McGilvery
1997: Franz Hillenkamp and Michael Karas
1996: Frank H. Field and Burnaby Munson
1995: Keith R. Jennings
1994: Donald F. Hunt
1993: Christie G. Enke and Richard Yost
1992: John B. Fenn
1991: Michael Barber
1990: Ronald D. Macfarlane