Boone M. Prentice, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,
Department of Chemistry,
University of Florida

Boone M. Prentice, Ph.D., received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Longwood University with minors in biology and mathematics. Additionally, he attended graduate school at Purdue University and received a PhD in Chemistry. Dr. Prentice then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Professor Richard Caprioli’s laboratory at Vanderbilt University where he studied matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI IMS) instrumentation and applications. Specifically, he worked on Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) and time-of-flight (TOF) MS systems and applied IMS to the study of diabetes, cancer, drug delivery and infectious disease.

Dr. Prentice joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Florida as an assistant professor in the fall of 2018. His research focuses on developing next-generation bioanalytical mass spectrometry to better understand the molecular basis of health and disease.

What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on? 

My research program is focused on the interdisciplinary development of novel chemistries, and next-generation mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation and methodologies to better understand the molecular basis of health and disease. In particular, we use imaging mass spectrometry to enable the visualization of biochemical processes directly in tissue specimens by combining the molecular specificity of mass spectrometry with microscopic imaging capabilities. I have an extensive background in fundamental chemistry and bioanalytical mass spectrometry, including instrumentation development, gas-phase ion chemistry, imaging mass spectrometry and tissue biochemistry. This background has given me a thorough understanding of how mass spectrometers function, allowing me to creatively explore the limits of this technology. One major focus of my research is to discover and utilize gas-phase ion chemistry (including ion/ion, ion/molecule, ion/photon and ion/electron reactions) to improve structural identification, analytical sensitivity, and molecular specificity for a wide variety of analytes (e.g., metabolites, lipids, glycans, proteins, drugs, etc.) in biological mass spectrometry experiments. The significance of this work lies in its application, in collaboration with biologists and clinicians to the study of tissue samples. Leveraging these novel chemical analysis technologies, we aim to understand the molecular events associated with important problems in human health including cancer, infectious disease and diabetes.

What excites you about your work? What is exciting to you about your field right now?

Fundamentally, I enjoy exploring the limits of mass spectrometry and pushing for new technological innovations. Instead of using the mass spectrometer simply as a detector of molecular mass, our group is using it as a reaction vessel to enable unique chemistries. There is currently a lot of interest in our field in exploring alternative gas-phase strategies for molecular structural characterization and purification. In an applied sense, there is a big push to use imaging mass spectrometry methods to understand basic tissue biochemistry and cellular biology as well as to aid pathologists and clinicians in clinical diagnoses. In this age of molecular science, mass spectrometry offers enormous potential for biological discovery by both comprehensively testing and generating hypotheses. I’m excited about the impact our work could have in these spaces!

Why did you decide on your field?

When I started graduate school, I had very minimal experience with mass spectrometry. However, I was amazed to learn all the different ways that these chemical instruments could be constructed and manipulated to enable new measurements and answer challenging scientific questions. The breadth and depth of research that can be enabled with mass spectrometry is something that still inspires me to this day!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy playing soccer, watching sporting events, reading science fiction, relaxing with friends, and spending time outdoors with my wife and our two dogs (miniature dachshunds, Weiner Dog and Otto!).