Carnegie Mellon University

Mark Bier

Mark Bier

Research Professor, Chemistry
Director, Center for Molecular Analysis, Chemistry


Ph.D., Purdue University, 1988
Scientist, ThermoFisher Scientific, 1988–1996


Keywords: Biophysics, analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry: mass spectrometry, heavy ion mass spectrometry, ion source development (mechanospray ionization and nanoelectrode APCI), nanoparticle analysis, virus particles, superconducting tunnel junction (STJ) cryodetection, membrane inlet MS, linear ion traps

Research in the Bier lab involves instrumentation development of the inlet, ionization source, mass analyzer and the detector of mass spectrometers for improved measurements of matter. The inlet technology has included membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS) systems for environmental water analysis. The ionization source technology includes: nano-electrode atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (nE-APCI) for improved analysis of small molecules, mechanospray ionization (MoSI) for improved soft ionization of species like native protein complexes and most recently, we have investigated a hot ionization source (HIS).

The Bier Lab is currently developing an optical ion trap (OIT) for high mass-to-charge, high resolution detection. A potential application includes DNA sequencing. Finally, the Bier lab has focused on heavy ion mass spectrometry (HIMS) of nanoparticles – a new frontier – with TOF and LIT mass analyzers. Research studies have been directed at ultra-high m/z ions such as protein complexes including viral particles and whole virion. Our lab investigates the differences in the relative energy deposited into STJs by different ions and what chemo-physical properties may be involved. The Bier lab is a national resource for superconducting tunnel junction technology as it applies to ion detection in mass spectrometry.


Heavy Ion Mass Spectrometry

This research is focused on a new frontier in mass spectrometry (MS) — the analysis of heavy ions. We are developing ultra-high mass spectrometers and methods to improve the analysis of nanoparticles such as biomacromolecular complexes (viruses, von Willebrand Factor) and nano-sized synthetic particles (Au nanoparticles, quantum dots, … etc) > 100kDa. Electrospray ionization (ESI) and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) are used to produce the heavy ions in the gas phase and we are investigating ion fundamental from these ion sources. The two mass spectrometers we use for this work, incorporate superconducting tunnel junction (STJ) cryodetectors that allow us to detect and study the limitations of mass spectrometry at high m/z and to observe intriguing energy differences between particles. The STJ detector technology has a tremendous advantage over conventional ionizer detectors because it is, theoretically, 100% efficient at high mass. This research is expected to impact macromolecular chemistry, molecular biology, virology and polymer chemistry. We have recorded the highest molecular weight mass spectra for chains of polystyrene at 2.2 MegaDa and, remarkably, a virus particle (bacteriophage HK97) at 13 MegaDa by MALDI TOF MS for the first time. In the future, we expect to be able to analyze ribosomal particles, larger virus particles, DNA/RNA protein complexes and other nanoparticles.

Water Analysis For Volatile Organics

Our environmental work is focused on analyzing low levels of organic molecules in water using electrospray ionization, electron ionization and/or atmospheric pressure chemical ionization membrane introduction MS (MIMS). Our MIMS probes have shown detection limit in the ppb to ppt range for a variety of small molecules. Investigations into the quality of our ground water due to Marcellus shale gas production is of interest and we seek to make our system portable for mobile field work.


Mass Spectrometry of Au10(TBBT)10 Nanoclusters using Superconducting Tunnel Junction Cryodetection Reveals Distinct Metastable Fragmentation
Plath, L.D.; Abroshan, H.; Zeng, C.; Kim, H.J.; Jin, R.; Bier, M.E., J. Am. Chem. Soc. (to be submitted 2018).

Superconducting Tunnel Junction Mass Spectrometry: A New Characterization Tool for the Analysis of MegaDalton-Sized Nanoparticles
David M. Sipe, Alexander A. Aksenov, Logan D. Plath, Mark E. Bier, ACS Nano 2018.

Characterization of ZnO Nanoparticles Using Superconducting Tunnel Junction Cryodetection
Plath, L.D.; Wang, Z.; Yan, J.; Matyjaszewski, K; Bier, M.E., J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2017.

Determination of Iron Content and Dispersity of Intact Ferritin by Superconducting Tunnel Junction Cryodetection Mass Spectrometry
Plath, L.D.; Ozdemir, A.; Aksenov, A.A.; Bier, M.E., Anal. Chem. 2015, 87, 8985-8993.

Interactive effects of competition and predator cues on immune responses of leopard frogs at metamorphosis
Groner, M.L., L.A. Rollins-Smith, L.K. Reinert, J. Hempel, M.E. Bier, and R.A. Relyea, The Journal of Experimental Biology 2013.

Larval exposure to predator cues alters immune function and response to a fungal pathogen in post-metamorphic wood frogs 
Groner, M.L., J.C. Buck, S. Gervasi, A.R. Blaustein, L.K. Reinert, L.A. Rollins-Smith, M.E. Bier, J. Hempel, and R.A. Relyea, Ecological Applications 2013, 23(6), 1443-1454.

Activity regulates functional connectivity from the vomeronasal organ to the accessory olfactory bulb
Hovis, Kenneth R.; Ramnath, Rohit; Dahlen, Jeffrey E.; Romanova, Anna L.; LaRocca, Greg; Bier, Mark E.; Urban, Nathaniel N., Journal of Neuroscience 2012, 32(23), 7907-7916.

Rapid, biomimetic degradation in water of the persistent drug sertraline by TAML catalysts and hydrogen peroxide
Shen, Longzhu Q; Beach Evan S; Xiang, Yan; Tshudy, Dwight J; Khanina, Natalya; Horwitz, Colin P; Bier, Mark E; Collins, Terrence, Environmental Science & Technology 2011, 45(18), 7882-7.

Crystal Structures of Au2 Complex and Au25 Nanocluster and Mechanistic Insight into the Conversion of Polydisperse Nanoparticles into Monodisperse Au25 Nanoclusters
Qian, Huifeng; Eckenhoff, William; Bier, Mark E.; Pintauer, Tomislav; Jin, Rongchao, Inorganic Chemistry, 2011 50(21), 10735-10739.

Sequential Observation of AgnS4- (1 ≤ n ≤7) Gas Phase Clusters in MS/MS and Prediction of Their Structures
Wu, Zhikun; Jiang,De-en; Lanni, Eric; Bier, Mark E.; Jin, Rongchao. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 2010, (9),1423-1427.

Education Area

Teaching interests: Mass spectrometry - Virtual Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (VMSL)

We created an internet-based mass spectrometry education tool called the Virtual Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (VMSL). The site is used to educate students, teachers, and researchers about mass spectrometry, using case studies and 'virtual' mass spectrometers to achieve this goal.


Years Position
2010–present Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon
2005–2010 Associate Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon
1996–2005 Assistant Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon
1996–present Director, Center for Molecular Analysis
1988–1996 Scientist , ThermoFisher Scientific (Finnigan)
1983–1988 Ph.D., Purdue University
1981–1983 Scientist, AMSCO Inc. (Steris)
1980–1981 Biochemist, VA Medical Center

Awards and Distinctions

Years Award
1995 Co-inventor of the linear quadrupole ion trap used worldwide