At 600 MHz, CSU'S Strongest NMR gets a name: Tony's
S. Pasadena's Fratiello Cited As Chemistry Mentor With Magnetic Wonder
With the strongest magnet in the California State University system and the capability to reveal tiny steps in chemical reactions, the 600-megahertz high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) laboratory at California State University, Los Angeles was named recently for Tony-specifically Anthony Fratiello, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Cal State L.A.
"Tony Fratiello is the father of NMR at Cal State L.A.," said Desdemona Cardoza, the university's dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, to dozens of his well-wishers gathered for the dedication (which was a surprise to Fratiello).
On hand were students and faculty colleagues who use NMR to determine complex chemical structures and trace reactions in research efforts focusing on DNA fragments, delivery of drugs to attachment sites, and other topics.
Fratiello, a resident of South Pasadena for nearly 40 years, first came to Cal State L.A. in 1963. Then the campus had a 60-MHz NMR, with one-tenth the power of its current model. In 1968, Fratiello convinced the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a new, 100-MHz machine at Cal State L.A. At the time, all of NSF's other NMR recipients were research institutions that awarded doctoral degrees, unlike Cal State L.A., where the primary mission is teaching master's and undergraduate students. Later Fratiello helped establish two other NMRs on campus - 300- and 400-MHz models - that remain in use.
Over the past decade, Cal State L.A.'s NMRs have been used by NSF-funded programs that provide research experience for undergraduate students, particularly those from groups underrepresented in the sciences.
"The thing I am most proud of is that more than 100 students have gone through my research lab," Fratiello said. "It was a good training process for them. They all went on to advanced degrees in science and medicine. Some became teachers. And, if it wasn't for the support of (Cal State L.A.) President (James M.) Rosser way back when we bought the 400-Mhz machine in 1985 (then the most powerful in the CSU), these recent purchases wouldn't have been possible."
The latest NMR lab was established with $500,000 each from the National Institutes of Health and the W.M. Keck Foundation, along with $350,000 provided by Cal State L.A. The instrument itself cost $1.24 million, plus $6,000 for shipping and handling.
According to Fratiello, "Every time we've brought in a new NMR, there's been an explosion of research grants and papers on campus." Throughout his 36-year career at Cal State L.A., he himself co-authored 78 technical papers with students, largely focused on complex molecules and metal ions in water-based solutions.
Cal State L.A. chemistry professor Yong Ba, who led the effort to acquire the new 600-Mhz three-ton machine, calls NMRs "the most useful tools for determining the detailed structure of organic chemicals."
By subjecting a sample-perhaps a solution in a pencil-thin glass tube or a small animal-to an extremely strong magnetic field, the NMR forces the usually randomly spinning nuclei of the sample's atoms into alignment. How that alignment responds to deliberate pulses of radio frequency energy provides information about the molecular environment of the nuclei.
Because it allows the scientists to observe the interaction of complex molecules and generate images of phenomena hidden deep within tissues-all without invading them, NMR technology has been a boon to many scientific fields. For example, it is the basis of the magnetic resonance imaging-or the MRI-used in medical diagnosis.
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