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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with chemist Mike Ramsey

UNC Goldby Distinguished Professor of Chemistry J. Michael Ramsey works in his office in Chapman Hall on Tuesday morning. Ramsey has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions awarded to a scientist or engineer.
UNC Goldby Distinguished Professor of Chemistry J. Michael Ramsey works in his office in Chapman Hall on Tuesday morning. Ramsey has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions awarded to a scientist or engineer.

Mike Ramsey, distinguished professor of chemistry, was recently inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. With 94 patents, Ramsey has invented technologies being used by the military, public safety departments and medical professionals.

His inventions make it easier for those lacking the skills to carry out sophisticated tasks, and increase the ease of use. One of these technologies is a handheld mass spectrometry — a machine which measures the weight of a molecule and typically weighs between 30 and 100 pounds. Ramsey said the handheld device makes it possible to more easily take the technology out into the field where its needed. Daily Tar Heel Staff Writer Amy Watson spoke with Ramsey about his accomplishments.

DTH: What does it feel like to have 94 patents?

*MR: *Exhausting. It’s a lot of work. But I feel luck to have a job where I really enjoy what I do. In terms of a field of science, people would say that I’m an analytic chemis — analytic chemists mostly figure out how to measure thing. My view is that what I do should be important enough to society that it could be turned into a product because it’s going to be solving an unmet need. That’s the focus of my effort. Everything that I work on, I have to see a product somewhere, maybe twenty years out, but it has to be important enough to society that they will want to pay dollars for it.

DTH: What are the fields that your inventions are mostly used within?

MR: Mostly bio technology and drug discovery, but also medicine. If we are successful, (these inventions) will be used in a doctor’s office. If we’re really successful it could migrate into the home.

DTH: What does it mean to you to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering?

MR: I think most scientists and educators are mostly working to entertain themselves and we’re fortunate that someone like the university will pay us to do that. It means a lot to me. It means that my peers think that what we’re doing is of value. The validation element is the most satisfying.

DTH: Will you stay at UNC?

MR: That’s a good question. Moving to UNC has been good for me, so who knows.

university@dailytarheel.com

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