Diabetes researcher recognized for distinguished chemistry career

Michael Roper, professor in FSU’s
Department of Chemistry and

A Florida State University chemistry professor whose research delves into the mechanisms at work behind the metabolic disorder known as Type 2 diabetes has received a prestigious honor for his work.

Michael Roper, a professor in FSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been awarded the Mid-Career Achievement Award from the American Electrophoresis Society. The award recognizes “exceptional contributions to the field of electrophoresis, electrokinetics, and related areas by an individual who is currently in the middle of their career,” according to the society.

Roper said that the award was given based on his lab’s accomplishments in the area of electrophoresis, a technique used in laboratories in order to separate macromolecules based on size. Specifically, the governing board selected Roper for his work on “powerful electrophoretic immunoassays and microfluidic analytical systems for the quantitative measurement of small molecules and peptides with high temporal resolution.”

“Something that we have worked on particularly is separating the peptides released from islets of Langerhans, the endocrine portion of the pancreas, at high speeds so we can see how levels of insulin, glucagon, and other small molecules change in response to glucose levels,” he said.

A little background: In a person’s pancreas, there are about a million cell clusters called islets (pronounced “eye-lits”). Within the islets are beta cells that produce and release the insulin needed to regulate the blood sugar that energizes the body. People with Type 2 diabetes have beta cells that create and release insulin, but it is either not enough to deal with the glucose in the bloodstream, or the body is “insulin-resistant” and a blood insulin level that would normally be enough is insufficient. Over time, overworked beta cells can become less effective or die. Roper’s research involves looking for ways to revive these under-functioning beta cells and thereby reverse the disease.

“This award means a lot to me because it recognizes the work that our lab has done over the past 12 years here at FSU,” Roper said. “Also, the list of past award winners is a spectacular list of analytical chemists, and I’m proud to be part of that group.” He added that “none of this would be possible without the students who have worked in the lab, so a lot of credit goes to them.”

According to its website, the American Electrophoresis Society was founded “to advance and promote electric field-mediated separations, manipulations, and related phenomena . . . Electrophoretic technologies play a central role in scientific investigations in clinical, basic, and applied disciplines from life sciences through chemistry and physics, to engineering. Our goal is to promote excellence in electrokinetic technologies, thus improving the overall quality and sophistication of scientific research.”

The recipient of the Mid-Career Achievement Award receives a plaque, gives a plenary lecture at the society’s SciX meeting, and has a special symposium in his or her honor. The SciX meeting is an annual program featuring the latest developments in electrokinetics, electrophoresis, dielectrophoresis, separations and microfluidics.

Roper was nominated by his chemistry department colleague Professor John Dorsey.

“John has always been a big supporter of mine, and I’m extremely grateful to him,” Roper said.