Photo of Stephen Spain.

Stephen M. Spain

Director of Instrumentation


Dr. Spain directs the shared instrument facility within the chemistry department, which includes overseeing the day-to-day operation of the NMR, mass spectrometry, and optical facilities. This involves teaching new and ongoing students how to properly utilize the available instrumentation along with method development, maintenance, tuning, optimization, and calibration of the instrumentation. Further roles of the Director of Instrumentation include planning long term needs of the department for instrumentation acquisition and teaching courses in analytical chemistry. In addition, Dr. Spain develops and maintains the department's intranet site and shared instrument facility wiki site.

Research Interests

Dr. Spain's primary research interests involve using NMR and mass spectrometry to solve problems in the area of biological chemistry. NMR is a powerful analytical technique that can provide site specific binding information that other instrumentation cannot. Furthermore, NMR can be used to elucidate the exchange kinetics of a wide variety of interesting problems.

One example of binding involves phytochelatins, which are peptides that plants, algae, and certain fungi produce in response to toxic heavy metal exposure. For example, upon reaction of end-capped PC2, Ac-γ-Glu-Cys-γ-Glu-Cys-Gly-NH2, with selenite both complexed and oxidized PC2 can be observed in the 2D TOCSY NMR spectrum.

The cis/trans isomerization kinetics of proline containing peptides using NMR has been extensively studied. We found that the rate of cis/trans isomerization was greatly increased upon formation of cyclic disulfides.

This rate enhancement was verified by both NMR and molecular modeling to be caused by the formation of a hydrogen bond between the NH proton of the residue following the proline to the nitrogen of proline.


  • Myriad Genetics (2005-2008)
  • Ph.D. (2003), University of California, Riverside (Dallas Rabenstein)
  • Quanterra Environmental Services (1994-1997)
  • B.S. (1992), Oregon State University