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Fall 1998

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Fall 98 > Article

Behind the Scenes

Long before their findings ever make headlines, researchers rely on dozens of UGA laboratories and other support services to advance their work. At right we spotlight a laboratory that provides support to research programs.

Even in quantities as small as a few parts per trillion, elements have a tough time eluding researchers at the UGA Chemical Analysis Laboratory.

"If we can get it into an aqueous form, we can analyze it," said Becky Auxier, who manages the lab that serves UGA researchers and other scientists.

Armed with several sophisticated instruments, the lab has tested for such things as copper and zinc in soil samples to determine the metals' effects on pecan crops. They've also analyzed mercury in genetically engineered plants, calculated lead content in imported wines and measured boron, iron and zinc for cancer research. They've even analyzed bones and pottery from Native American burial sites.

Many of these analyses have been done with the lab's new, state-of-the-art inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, which can detect simultaneously more than 80 elements of the periodic chart. This instrument, which recognizes elements by measuring the mass of their molecules, can detect extremely low levels, as little as one part per trillion in some cases.

The lab focuses on low-level metal, cation (a positively charged atomic particle), nutrient, and pesticide and herbicide analyses. It also houses several other instruments that analyze soil, water and plants for contents of various chemicals, nutrients and toxic metals.

"Quality analysis and quick turn-around times on samples are our goals for serving the research community," Auxier said. "The scientists' professional reputations are riding on the information we give them, so quality assurance and quality control are essential."

For more information, e-mail Becky Auxier at bauxier@rserv.uga.edu or access http://www.ors.uga.edu/chem/index.html.


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Becky Auxier