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Proteomics is an area of rapid growth in biological and medical research. Developed, and its name coined, in the mid-1990s, proteomics was an outgrowth of the genomic revolution. It is driven by advances in molecular separation and mass spectrometry technology over the past twenty years. The Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) is developing a proteomics capability as a part of the OUSS’s central research infrastructure – the Mass Spectrometry Center. Proteomics capabilities will allow us to gather more information from Smithsonian collections, cultural objects, and biological specimens, and to learn more about their materials, their origins, and their deterioration. Proteomics will allow us to move beyond identification of organisms to look at the activity and dynamics of their populations, their use in cultural and artistic expression, and their role in sustainable ecosystems. This program will use the instruments and techniques typical of Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet to serve all of the Smithsonian’s Grand Challenges.
Dr. Moini has developed a novel handheld analytical technique called ultrafast capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry (CE-MS) that uses short, narrow capillaries, with separation potentials in excess of 1000V/cm, to deliver samples into the mass spectrometer. This novel technique consumes very, very small samples, picoliters – one trillionth of a liter, with analysis times of about a minute. The technique is especially useful for the onsite analysis of museum specimens and for astrobiology, where sample consumption must be minimized. The technique is also capable of analyzing D/L-amino acids, which is useful for aging museum specimens and for detection of life in other planets.