Linda Baine McGown is the William Weightman Walker Professor of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. McGown received her B.S. in chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1975 and her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1979. She was a faculty member at California State University (1979-1982), Oklahoma State University (1982-1987, tenured in 1985) and Duke University (1987-2004) before joining RPI in 2004. She has been a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 2001 and received the New York Section of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy Gold Medal Award in 1994. She was included in the 2016 Power List: the Top 50 Most Influential Women in the Analytical Sciences, and in The Future of Women in Chemistry and Science in honor of UNESCO declaring 2011 the International Year of Chemistry as one of “60 exemplary thinkers each speaking for 60 seconds about how to expand women’s leadership in the sciences, across all disciplines and sectors”. She has served on numerous editorial boards including Chemical and Engineering News, Analytical Chemistry, Applied Spectroscopy, Analytica Chimica Acta and Life.
The common thread through Dr. McGown’s research is the recognition of the analytical potential of new discoveries and emerging technologies. In her early career, she exploited the unique capabilities of frequency-domain fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy to create information-rich, multidimensional data formats to characterize and classify complex samples such as human serum, humic substances and petrolatums. She then integrated fluorescence lifetime detection into separation techniques, including HPLC and CE, in order to obtain complete fluorescence lifetime profiles of each peak on-the-fly. One important product of this research is a four-decay approach to DNA sequencing that provides unprecedented resolution of overlapping DNA strands without any assumptions about the number or nature of the components contributing to the signal at each point in the capillary electropherogram.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. McGown became acquainted with aptamers, which were under investigation primarily as novel pharmaceuticals. She and co-authors wrote an Apage report to Analytical Chemistry citing the potential advantages of aptamers (aka “nucleic acid ligands”) over other affinity reagents, most notably antibodies, for chemical analysis. Aptamers are now considered to be a mainstream alternative to antibodies for targets ranging from small m molecules to large proteins and even whole cells. In her own research, Dr. McGown introduced aptameric stationary phases in capillary electrochromatography for chiral and chemical separations, and an affinity MALDI mass spectrometry platform for rapid screening of affinity protein capture directly at aptamermodified MALDI probe surfaces. She is currently focusing on genome-inspired approaches to aptamer discovery to complement combinatorial methods, in order to explore a naturally evolved sequence space often underrepresented in combinatoriallibraries. Other current research interests include reversible biogels formed through selfassembly of guanosine compounds into hydrogen-bonded tetrads, separation of DNA by sequence, and prebiotic chemistry on early Earth.
Dr. McGown owes the success of her research program to the many talented graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have participated in her group. She owes her professional longevity to support and encouragement from extraordinary friends and mentors, and most importantly, her family.