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Yeung, Ed S.

(February 17, 1948 — )

Quick Facts

Ed S. Yeung has achieved distinction in the field of analytical chemistry with research in both spectroscopy and chromatography, has earned 21 patents and won numerous awards and recognitions. He was the first person to quantitatively analyze the chemical contents of a single human red blood cell, a development that could lead to improved detection of AIDS, cancer, and genetic diseases such as Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy and Down's syndrome.


Yeung was born in 1948 in Hong Kong. He received his AB magna cum laude in chemistry from Cornell University and his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1972, he has been on the chemistry faculty at Iowa State University; in 1989 he was named the Robert Allen Wright Professor and Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Chemical and Biological Sciences Program at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory. His research interests span both spectroscopy and chromatography and state-of-the-art research in metabolomics.

He was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (1974) and was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1992). He was appointed Honorary Professors of Zhengzhou University, Zhongshan University, Xiamen University and Hunan University, Distinguished Chair Professor of National Taiwan University, and Fellow of the School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo.

He received the American Chemical Society’s Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Chemical Instrumentation (1987), the Lester W. Strock Award (1990), the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award (1993), the L. S. Palmer Award (1994), the American Chemical Society’s Fisher Award in Analytical Chemistry (1994), the Frederick Conference on Capillary Electrophoresis Award (1997), the Eastern Analytical Symposium Award in Analytical Chemistry (1998), the American Chemical Society’s Award in Chromatography (2002), the International Prize of the Belgian Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences (2002), the Eastern Analytical Symposium Award in Separation Science (2003), the inaugural Ralph N. Adams Award in Bioanalytical Chemistry (2005), the Golay Award (2006), the Chicago Chromatography Discussion Group Merit Award, the A.J.P. Martin Medal of the Chromatographic Society and the American Chemical Society’s Division of Analytical Chemistry Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Analytical Chemistry (2009).

Yeung has received four R&D (research and development) 100 Awards for his inventions. The awards have been called the "Oscars of applied science" by the Chicago Tribune. They are presented by R&D Magazine to the year's top 100 products of technological significance. Yeung won R&D Awards in 1989, 1991, 1997 and 2001.

The 2001 award was for a remarkable advance in chemical separation technology called multiplexed capillary electrophoresis (MCE) using absorption detection. Yeung worked with former Ames Lab graduate student Xiaoyi Gong, now at Merck, Inc., in New Jersey, to develop the award-winning technology. Multiplexed capillary electrophoresis used in combination with absorption detection makes it possible to rapidly separate samples of complex chemical or biochemical mixtures and has the ability to decipher an individual's entire genetic code faster, more accurately, less expensively and with less environmental impact than conventional instrumentation — a feat that could potentially revolutionize the diagnosis of diseases and the development of treatments. He then helped launch a new company to turn the technology into a commercial instrument — the MCE 2000.

Ames Laboratory then-Director, Tom Barton, said, "This is an excellent example of extrapolating the results of DOE-funded fundamental research into breakthrough technology that definitely has the potential of improving people's lives."

In 2004, the Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association named him Inventor of the Year for his development of a DNA sequencer that combines laser microfluorescence with capillary electrophoresis, two analytical chemistry methods for determining the minute components of a substance. The sequencer can detect, monitor and quantify materials 24 times faster than earlier DNA sequencers. The system is a combination of several technologies for which Yeung holds patents. The DNA sequencer technology, which was pivotal in the completion of the Human Genome Project, has been licensed exclusively to Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, the major company in the DNA sequencing market. Yeung holds 21 patents for technologies.

Kenneth Kirkland, director of the ISU Research Foundation, said, "Yeung's program of discovery recognizes that chemical analysis does not stop at just providing measurements, but must be directly involved in the development of science as a whole. His innovations create opportunities for researchers from several biological disciplines to design novel experiments that open doors to new discoveries.”

"In a stunningly productive career now exceeding three decades, Ed Yeung has time and again defined, then pushed beyond the outer boundaries of chemical measurement science," said Paul Bohn, Arthur J. Schmitt Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame and a long-time colleague of Yeung's. "From his early work mapping cutting edge laser spectroscopies onto molecular separations to a decade spent defining what can be learned from the study of single molecules, Ed has consistently moved into fruitful new areas and, by so doing, catalyzed enormously important developments by large numbers of researchers. In addition to a rich legacy of intellectual leadership he has served the profession through his tireless promotion of analytical chemistry nationally and internationally, his contributions to countless boards, panels and committees and, of course, his long-time and very effective association with the journal Analytical Chemistry.”

He was an Associate Editor of Analytical Chemistry and a co-editor of Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry. He served on the editorial advisory board of Progress in Analytical Spectroscopy, Journal of Capillary Electrophoresis, Mikrochimica Acta, Spectrochimica Acta Part A, Journal of Microcolumn Separations, Electrophoresis, Journal of High Resolution Chromatography, Chromatographia and Journal of Biochemical and Biophysical Methods.

As of this writing in 2020, Yeung is still actively working.

Selected Sources

ISU Chemistry Dept. website: 

ISU News Service:

Ames Laboratory:

Saren Johnston, US Dept of Energy Research news


Edward Yeung materials in ISU’s Special Collections

“Autobiography of an Analytical Chemist” Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry, Vol. 13:1-16 (Volume publication date June 2020)

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