I recently attended the Winter Plasma Conference in Tucson, Arizona, an event most scientists in the field of plasma spectrochemistry (myself included!) look forward to every year. This event allows scientists from all over the world to share and learn about the latest advancements in research areas that involve instruments such as lasers, ICP-OES instruments and ICP-MS instruments. It was at this event that I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Coleman, President of Meinhard. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to work with Geoff to supply our customers with robust solutions for their ICP and ICP-MS applications. He has a wealth and breadth of knowledge in atomic spectroscopy and I was delighted that he was willing to take the time to share his experiences with me.
Geoff, why do you like science?
Actually, I’ve always been a curious person, so science was a logical subject for me to pursue. As a child, I drove my parents crazy, asking “Why?” about everything. I always liked to know how things worked, why they worked, and how they could be improved. By the time I was 9 or 10 years old, I was tearing apart electronic devices (such as radios) to learn about the underlying mechanics and to understand how they worked.
Did you pursue science in college?
When I was a freshman in college, I enrolled with a plan to pursue a major in physics. After the first year of classes, I discovered that chemistry was easier so I quickly switched my major from physics to chemistry. I thought I’d like to teach high school science when I graduated, so I did some student teaching while I finished up my degree. I very much enjoyed it and continued to teach while I pursued a master’s degree in chemistry.
Once I graduated, I went on to Colorado State University, where spectroscopy and electrochemistry were heavily emphasized. At that time, most of the funding for research projects was coming from grants to track the environmental fate of lead. I participated in a large multi-university study to sample and measure lead in a variety of environmental sources (water, soil, air, etc.). The work was really fascinating. During that time, I was still interested in pursuing a career in teaching, so I did an eight-month postdoc at Colorado State. From there, I went on to teach at the University of Georgia, where I taught a variety of chemistry courses and conducted research using direct current plasma (DCP) instruments. I managed a number of graduate students who have gone on to become professors and college deans.
So, did you end up pursuing a career in teaching?
Actually, no. From there, I was offered a job managing the applications lab at Leeman Labs. It was there that I met Craig Seeley. Craig now works for Thermo Fisher Scientific as a Product Specialist for the AA, ICP-OES and ICP-MS product lines. Back then, however, he was running the standards lab at Leeman Labs, and I learned a lot from him about making multi-element standards and preparing solutions for trace element analysis.
After that, I was offered a position with Fisons/VG Elemental as a Product Manager (Fisons/VG Elemental eventually became part of Thermo Fisher Scientific). In this role, I got to be on the team that designed the Iris DCP, an optical emission spectrometer that is now roughly 20 years old. During my time in product management, I got to participate in two very interesting projects that further stimulated my love of science:
The first project was to develop a method for measuring nitrogen in oil samples (particularly detergents) by ICP-OES. Both the hardware and software had to be modified to allow each sample to be sparged with argon gas for approximately six minutes before being transferred into the plasma.
The second project was to develop a workflow solution for measuring trace elements in engine oils (trend analysis for wear metals). This application was designed for operators with little or no technical background who needed to analyze hundreds of samples per day. Wear metal analysis requires maximum sample throughput, so one-button commands were put into place to allow the operator to get the instrument’s plasma ignited and to start a sample run with the single touch of a button.
How did you come to join Meinhard?
In the early 70s, nebulizer manufacturers were in the early stages of production and quality was hit or miss. For that reason, I experimented a lot with nebulizer designs and I built my own. By 2002, I had gained a lot of knowledge and experience in nebulizer design, and Jim Meinhard offered me the position of general manager at the company.
What do you do for fun when you’re not doing science?
I can sum up my answer in one sentence: winters spent on the slopes in Colorado, summers spent sailing on the Great Lakes.
I’d like to thank Geoff for sharing his love of science with me, and I encourage you to do the same. Please share with us why you love science.
If the applications here peaked your interest, check out some of the resources available on our trace elemental analysis page, as well as some of the application notes listed below: