PRACTICAL INITIATION TO MASS SPECTROMETRY FOR POSTGRADUATES. STUDY OF REAL APPLICATIONS IN FOOD ANALYSIS
The lack of practical expertise of graduates when they finish their bachelor´s degrees is a recurrent issue that both academic and industrial areas suffer when the new professionals start their careers. This problem is even worse for master students since they are supposed to have solid knowledge in a specific area which involves not only theoretical concepts but also practical skills to carry out the tasks associated with their position. In this regard, it is paramount that didactical strategies, particularly designed to improve this aspect, are developed in postgraduate degrees, especially in areas related to experimental sciences and its applications.
Mass spectrometry hyphenated with the state-of-the-art chromatographic techniques has become the gold tool for the performance of reliable analysis in different fields such as environmental, biological or food assessment. Particularly, food safety is an issue of special concern in the worldwide industry. The development of unequivocal, selective and sensitive determinations of toxic substances that can have harmful effects on consumers has become an important challenge for authorities, food producers and for the general population. In this sense, the evaluation of endocrine disrupting compounds in food matrices has been one of the most relevant strategies for action and the application of mass spectrometry to carry out these analyses is essential to reach the requirements established to assure the quality of results.
All the above mentioned makes necessary a solid preparation in the practical set up and use of mass spectrometry and its coupling with chromatographic techniques of those students involved in master´s degrees related to the assessment of food safety.. In addition, it is also important to develop a critical application of these tools taking relevant aspects into account such as suitability, sustainability, cost and time consumption, among others.
In this work, a practical pedagogical approach was proposed to introduce master students into the field of mass spectrometry applications in food analysis. With this aim, the development of a suitable methodology based on such techniques has been posed as a final master project for the evaluation of a specific group of endocrine disruptors in food products widely consumed by the population. The strategy has shown its success to develop critical thinking skills in the students, as well as to reinforce the theoretical concepts learnt during lectures. This study also demonstrates the effectiveness of practical formation of master students to acquire fundamental skills related to the specific area of expertise.