MAF senior scientist recognized for contributions to surface science community

Filed Under: MAFNews

October 18, 2021

MAF staff member Dan Graham was recently selected to receive the 2021 AVS Applied Surface Science Division Peter M. A. Sherwood Mid-Career Professional Award for innovation and leadership in the application of Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to organic and biological materials and for the development of practical multivariate analysis tools, which are widely used in the applied surface science community. He will give a presentation at the upcoming AVS meeting.

Dan Graham portrait

As a senior research scientist in the MAF, he works with users who are interested in acquiring data from the MAF's surface analytical equipment, especially their ToF-SIMS system. In addition to helping users with experimental design, data collection and data analysis, he also maintains the ToF-SIMS system and makes sure it is running optimally.

Learn more about Dr. Graham in our Q&A below.

What is your background?

I received a B.S in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. My Ph.D. thesis work focused on the creation and analysis of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) using ToF-SIMS and multivariate analysis. After graduating I worked as a research scientist with NESAC/BIO and SARC (now the MAF). In 2006 I left the UW to help found Asemblon Inc. where I worked for 4 years as a principal scientist in charge of surface engineering research. In 2010, I returned to the UW where I am a Senior Research Scientist in the MAF. I have 24 years of experience in surface preparation and characterization and I have analyzed a wide range of materials ranging from polymers, metals, electronics, and composites to cells, tissues and biomaterials.

Tell us about an interesting project that you've recently worked on with a MAF user.

Nanoparticles are often used as drug delivery carriers in the body. It is very challenging to analyze the surface of nanoparticles due to their size. However, it is important to determine or verify the presence of molecules present in or on the nanoparticles because the surface chemistry will determine how the material interacts in the body. I recently worked on a project where we were able to use the chemical specificity of ToF-SIMS to verify the presence of a surfactant molecule on nanoparticles used for drug delivery to the brain. For this we analyzed controls of the surfactant molecule to determine characteristic peaks that could be used to identify it on the nanoparticles. We then analyzed a thin film of the nanoparticles and were able to verify that the surfactant was present and seen uniformly across the film. This work was recently published in Biomaterials along with other experiments with the nanoparticles. We hope to push this further by determining if we can determine if the surfactants are on the surface and/or inside the nanoparticles and whether we can use the same methodology to identify other molecules used in nanoparticle synthesis.

What in your opinion makes the MAF unique?

The MAF brings together a unique set of analytical tools together with a world class group of scientists who are dedicated to helping our users get the data and information they need to answer their research questions. The wide variety of backgrounds within the MAF staff provides a significant advantage as we are able to see problems from different perspectives and bring insight into not only what methods to use, but how the resulting information can provide the answers our users need.

What is your favorite thing about working at the MAF?

My favorite thing about working with the MAF is the people. The staff and users are a dynamic group of people that make each day interesting and fun. I also like being able to work with state-of-the-art equipment that can do some amazing things. I mean, who doesn't like a good toy?

Lastly, what are you passionate about outside of the lab?

When I’m not in the lab I like to rockhound, mountain bike, and run really long distances. I have been collecting rocks since I was a kid and now I find, cut and polish rocks of all sizes, shapes and colors. Pretty much every Saturday morning I find a forest road somewhere in the mountains to ride or run on. My backpack usually ends up heavier than when I started because it is easy to find interesting rocks in the Washington mountains.

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