A NEW APPROACH FOR PRACTICAL INITIATION OF POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS IN NANOCHROMATOGRAPHY
After graduation in the field of experimental science, many students arrive to postgraduate studies with an important lack of knowledge regarding the current trends in innovation and research in their particular areas. It is an important trouble, especially for those who want to continue in the academia developing their master and PhD studies. For this reason, a considerably effort should be carried out by teachers, particularly in the first steps, that is to say, during master grades, to show the students the state of the art of the most relevant tools and techniques applied in the field, with the aim of establishing solid basis for their subsequent research careers.
In the last years, the main trends in Analytical Chemistry have been focused on the development of miniaturised techniques. Those allow simplifying the procedures that are carried out in the field, as well as reducing the time consumed and decreasing their environmental impact by the reduction of the amount of toxic organic solvents, other hazards reagents and materials applied. Regarding separation techniques, nano liquid chromatography (nano-LC) has been considered a very important alternative to conventional liquid chromatography systems in which the consumption of solvents is still quiet high despite the important effort carried out in this sense. In this technique, developed by Karlsson and Novothy in 1988, the separation of the analytes is achieved into capillary columns with smaller than 100 µm internal diameters and eluted at very low mobile phase flows in the range 50-800 nL/min.
Considering its own important benefits including the reduction of cost and analysis time, the increase in chromatographic performance and easy coupling to mass spectrometry detector, the miniaturised liquid chromatography is presented as an extremely competitive analytical methodology. For this reason, nowadays it is applied, by using dedicated commercial instrumentation, in various analytical areas, including environmental, pharmaceutical, food analysis and especially in forensics, proteomics and metabolomics topic, in which the real sample amount is scarce.
In this work, a novel strategy has been proposed for the practical introduction of postgraduate students in the learning and application of nano-LC for the separation of organic compounds. With this aim, a group of endocrine disruptors was selected as model analytes to show the performance of the technique. The educative approach was based on the description of the technique and the familiarisation of the students with it in a short practice course in which several important parameters affecting the separation were thoroughly studied and experimentally evaluated for their further discussion. Apart from that, a partial validation of the developed method for the analysis of endocrine disruptors was also proposed to the students in order to show them the reliability of the technique. Additionally, the proposed course also allows them to afford a common procedure that shows the usual experimental situation, which would deal in the near future as novel researchers.