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UTA honors pioneering chemist Dr. Hamish Small; names Dr. Purnendu Dasgupta to $1 million endowed chemistry chair

Friday, October 23, 2015

Media Contact: Louisa Kellie, Office: 817‑272‑0864, Cell: 817-524-8926, louisa.kellie@uta.edu

Sandy Dasgupta and Hamish Small

From left: UTA Professor Dr. Purnendu "Sandy" Dasgupta and Dr. Hamish Small

The University of Texas at Arlington celebrated the $1 million endowed Hamish Small Chair of Ion Analysis with an event honoring Dr. Purnendu “Sandy” Dasgupta, the first faculty member to hold the chair, and the chair’s namesake, renowned chemist Dr. Hamish Small.

The endowed chair was established through a gift from multinational company Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Dr. Small, 86, invented ion chromatography, the process that allows the separation of ions based on their charge. His work has seeded a $300 million a year industry, and his processes are employed by diverse businesses, from those focused on power generation and water analysis to pharmaceuticals and healthcare.

Dr. Dasgupta, UTA’s Jenkins Garrett Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is a celebrated researcher in his own right, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the author of more than 350 papers in addition to book chapters and other published works. He holds 20 U.S. patents, including one on electrodialytic reagent generation technology on which current ion chromatography is based.

The two men joined UTA President Vistasp M. Karbhari and representatives of Thermo Fisher Scientific on campus for a reception and symposium in their honor.

Dr. Small said he was stunned when he learned that a UTA chair would be established in his name.

“I have received many honors for my work, but this was beyond what I had imagined,” he said. “I am especially glad to be able to personally thank all who have been involved for this great honor.” 

Christopher Pohl, Thermo Fisher’s vice president of chromatography chemistry, said, “Dr. Hamish Small is one of the giants of modern analytical chemistry. We at Thermo Fisher wanted to honor his many contributions by permanently endowing a chair named in his honor and feel that The University of Texas at Arlington is a perfect setting for such an honor. And we also congratulate Dr. Dasgupta on his appointment."

Dr. Dasgupta said the appointment to the Hamish Small Chair is one of the most meaningful recognitions he has received throughout his career.

“The honor that it brings to be associated with his name is truly humbling. He is a person who at 86 still has an active lab in his garage and is still discovering,” Dr. Dasgupta said. “This is a person I have always idolized in my life, so to be named the first Small Chair, it’s just wonderful. I feel enormously honored.”

Dr. Dasgupta joined the UTA College of Science in 2007 after a distinguished 25-year career at Texas Tech University. He has won numerous awards in his field, including the American Chemical Society National Award in Chromatography in 2011 and the Stephen Dal Nogare Award in Chromatography in 2012.

In February 2015, he was honored with the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Education.

Dr. Dasgupta’s active research areas include methods for environmentally-friendly analysis of arsenic in drinking water; rapid analysis of trace heavy metals in the atmosphere; iodine nutrition in women and infants and the role of the chemical perchlorate; and the development of a NASA-funded ion chromatograph for testing extraterrestrial soil, such as that found on Mars.

Among his most recent projects is a prototype for an implantable in-line shunt flow monitoring system for hydrocephalus patients. In August, Dr. Dasgupta won a $1 million NASA grant to further the search for amino acids, the so-called building blocks of life, by extending a platform that he developed to detect and separate ions.

UTA President Vistasp M. Karbhari said Dr. Dasgupta has catapulted the University’s ion chromatography research group to international prominence.

“Dr. Dasgupta epitomizes what administrators like myself want from faculty -- a teacher of the highest caliber beloved by his students because he inspires them in class, in the laboratory, and outside; and a researcher capable of excelling in both fundamental and applied research,” Dr. Karbhari said.

He added, “Endowments such as this play a critical role in continuing UTA's drive to be a global leader in education and research. We are deeply grateful for the support of this global leader in innovative biotechnology products, analytical instruments, lab equipment and specialty diagnostics.”

Dr. Small was born in Northern Ireland in 1929 and earned his bachelor’s and master’s in science from the Queen’s University of Belfast. He began his career at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell before spending almost 30 years at Dow Chemical Company in the United States, where he attained the position of research scientist. Since 1983, he has been an independent researcher and consultant.

Ion exchange had been used as a purification technique beginning late in the 19th century. But before Small's groundbreaking work, the use of ion exchange as an analytical technique for inorganic chemicals was limited by the difficulty of detecting ions in a highly conductive background.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System.  The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UTA as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

About the UTA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The UTA College of Science houses the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the home of academic and research excellence in analytical, biochemistry, environmental, inorganic and organic, physical and polymer chemistry and related degree programs. The Department includes premier research centers focused on advanced polymers; colloidal and interfacial dynamics; nanostructured materials; and renewable energy, science and technology. Exceptional faculty leaders include Dr. Radica Das, a Distinguished Scholar Professor and department chair; Dan Armstrong, a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor; Krishnan Rajeshwar, Distinguished University Professor and vice president of The Electrochemical Society; and Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry. To learn more, visit www.uta.edu/chemistry

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.