Campus & Community

Professor Athula Attygalle Receives New Jersey 2014 Inventor of the Year Award

Stevens congratulates Athula Buddhagosha Attygalle, research professor in the Department of Chemistry, Chemical Biology & Biomedical Engineering who received the prestigious 2014 Inventor of the Year award by the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for his patented work in mass spectrometric analysis utilizing helium-plasma and charge-exchange ionization techniques.

“Dr. Attygalle is a faculty-entrepreneur who exemplifies Stevens’ focus and commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Dr. Christos Christodoulatos, Professor & Vice Provost of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

The New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame promotes the role of invention in the “state’s development and the role of inventors in improving society and changing our lives.”  Each year, the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame holds an Annual Awards Banquet to honor those inventors who, over a lifetime of invention, have contributed significantly to the welfare and finances of the state. The 2014 award ceremony will be held on October 16 at the W Hotel in Hoboken.

Attygalle is internationally recognized as leading mass spectrometrist.  Before joining Stevens in 2000, Attygalle was the Director of the Mass Spectrometry Facility at Cornell University for 12 years.  As an educator, he has conducted mass spectrometry workshops in Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.  Dr. Attygalle teaches a course on “Introduction to Modern Mass Spectrometry” for the American Chemical Society professional education program. Professor Attygalle has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed research articles. Research reported in some of his joint publications has been singled out for coverage on numerous occasions by the media including the New York Times.

For the two newly patented techniques, a graduate student, Chang-Ching Chan, and a Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zhihua Yang, made major contributions as co-inventors.  The two new mass spectrometric techniques called Helium-Plasma Ionization (HePI), and Desorption Ionization by Charge Exchange (DICE) are versatile ionization methods that enables sampling of materials under ambient conditions by placing them directly in a mass spectrometer.

“By these techniques, we can tell if someone has washed their hands,” says Attygalle. “All of us carry a reasonable amount of lactic acid on our skin, and we get a signal for it just by placing your hands in the instrument.” Attygalle’s techniques also provide rapid ways to detect explosives, including inorganic substances, in amounts as tiny as one nanogram (one millionth of a milligram).

Attygalle’s work related to these inventions are published in Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (DOI: 10.1021/ac3026916; DOI: 10.1021/ac403634t), Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (DOI: 10.1007/s13361-011-0149-1], and  Journal of Mass Spectrometry (DOI: 10.1002/jms.3026).