Mississippi State University

Current Research Projects

Analytical Chemistry - Chemical Ecology

Breath Analysis Fig

Breath VOC profiles of healthy and diseased subjects.

Breath Analysis

The ultimate aim of this work is to develop a low cost, efficient, reproducible, quantitative, non-invasive screening method to diagnose diseases at an early stage.  This requires research and development of an analytical system that can provide a rapid and specific assay for diseases by analyzing breath biomarkers. Various challenges associated with the collection and analysis of breath samples with parts per billion concentrations of volatile organic markers at high humidities must be addressed.

Odor Profiles

Classifying different odor profiles


Human scent is a complex mixture of chemicals. Analytical methods for its collection and analysis are under development in our laboratory. Information on human VOC can be used to identify important health related chemicals.  Diseases like cancer or diabetes have been shown to produce unique odor profiles and we are currently developing methods for these applications.

Analysis of VOCs from Aspergillus flavus

Aflatoxins are polyketide-derived, toxic, carcinogenic secondary metabolites primarily produced by Aspergillus flavus. Exposure to aflatoxins results in occurrence of respiratory and other cancers. Microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) are produced during fungi and bacteria metabolism process. Headspace solid phase microextraction (HS-SPME) is a fast and cheap technique used to collect the MVOCs from fungi. In this study, HS-SPME combined with GCMS was used to discriminate toxigenic and non-toxigenic Aspergillus flavus.


Analytical Chemistry - Portable Instrumentation Development

Chemical Microsensors

From lung cancer to the common cold, respiratory diseases affect billions of people in the world each year.   It has been established that normal metabolism in a healthy subject results in the generation of several volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being excreted in the breath.  The ultimate goal of our program is to develop analytical hardware and software that can aid in the early diagnosis of these diseases.

Mini GC

The Vernier Mini GC developed by Todd Mlsna and Seacoast Science

Portable Instruments

Chromatography has gained enormous attention because of this technique’s simplicity and ability to separate complex mixtures of analytes to aid in their identification. Gas chromatography (GC) is a technique that includes all chromatographic processes in which a substance to be analyzed is in the gaseous state or is converted into such a state. Our group develops miniaturized GCs for applications that require portability, the ability to operate in the field, low power requirements and low material cost.


Inorganic Chemistry - Development of Catalysts and Methods for Biofuel Production


Non-renewable fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas are being consumed worldwide at a reckless pace. The United States consumes the lion’s share; we use one-quarter of the world's oil supply, but have just 1.6% of its oil reserves. We are focused on development of methods for the production of a stable, liquid bio-fuel with higher energy values (water removed, less organic oxygen) than conventionally produced bio-oils.


Environmental Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring

Substances having the capability to interfere with human and wildlife endocrine systems are commonly known as endocrine disrupters (EDs). The occurrence of EDs in the environment has become a major concern as EDs can have a deleterious impact on aquatic organisms even at extremely low concentrations. We are developing methods for trace level quantification EDs and other trace chemicals.  Our method includes sample preparation using solid-phase extraction followed by a “QuEChERS” cleanup step, a derivatization and LC-MS/MS detection.