Our mission is to transform our ability to accurately predict the impact of aerosols on climate and environment by bringing real-world chemical complexity into laboratory.

Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory

Welcome to the home of the Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory. New in 2015, leveraged on the partnerships between CAICE, ThermoFisher Scientific and active support from the University of California San Diego, the facility embodies the continual development of novel analytical methodologies to support researchers continually faced with the need to measure within complex chemical systems.

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Lab Overview

ECAL is a state-of-the-art analytical facility that houses cutting-edge chromatography and mass spectrometry instrumentation, and serves as a platform to develop innovative strategies for performing sensitive, accurate and precise analysis of complex matrices. The laboratory’s expertise and resources are available to researchers across the campus of UC San Diego and to researchers across the globe.

As no two samples are alike, complex samples typically require innovative approaches for their analysis. Comprehensive compositional analysis of complex and environmental samples can be implemented through the following state-of-the-art analytical systems within the ECAL facility:

  • Ultra-high resolution hybrid linear ion trap-Orbitrap mass spectrometer
  • Gas chromatograph coupled to a triple quadrupole MS
  • 2-D and 1-D ultra-performance liquid chromatography systems with UV/Vis and electrochemical detection
  • Nano-liquid chromatography systems
  • Inductively-coupled plasma quadrupole mass spectrometer
  • Ion chromatograph with conductivity detector

All of the UPLC systems are capable of being hyphenated to the LIT-Orbitrap MS system. Furthermore, other hyphenated and unique techniques that are available (but are not limited to) include: UPLC-Orbitrap-ICPMS, IC-ICPMS, single-particle-ICP-MS (spICP-MS), SPME-GC-MS, and thermal desorption/pyrolysis-GC-MS. For inquiries about these unique approaches and the possibility for others not listed here, please contact the ECAL staff.

Routine mass spectrometry applications include organic, organometallic, inorganic and elemental analyses. For organic and organometallic compounds, available measurements include high accuracy molecular weight determination, structural characterization through hyphenated MS techniques (including CID, HCD and ETD), as well as quantitative analysis through both GC-MS and UPLC-MS. For inorganic and elemental analysis, available measurements include quantitation of inorganic ions and individual elements, speciation of individual elements (e.g., simultaneous quantitation of Fe2+ and Fe3+), as well as the characterization of metallic nanoparticles.

Use of the facility resources can be done through instrument training or through samples submission. For further information on scheduling training as well as requirements and recommendations in sample preparation, please visit the Sample Submission page.


Dr. Richard E. Cochran attended the University of North Dakota, receiving his B.S. degree in Chemistry and Forensic Science in 2010. As an undergraduate, he participated in the NSF REU programs in 2009 and 2010, from which he was awarded the NSF-REU Chemistry Leadership Award. He then continued on to earning his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry in 2014 with Professors Alena Kubatova and Evguenii Kozliak. As a graduate student, he was recognized through many awards, including the NSF EPSCoR Doctoral Dissertation Award and selected as the U.S. Delegate at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Following, he then continued as a postdoctoral research at the University of Iowa with Professors Vicki Grassian and Elizabeth Stone. During his postdoctoral research tenure, he was selected as an Emerging Senior Scientist for the ACCESS XIII Meeting for the Gordon Research Conference in Atmospheric Chemistry. Currently, he is the Director of the Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory while also serving as a Research Scientist with the Center of Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE, an NSF Chemical Center of Innovation). His research specializes in developing innovative analytical strategies for characterizing complex chemical matrices and then using such techniques to probe the fundamental chemical mechanisms that define such chemical complexity. Work, however, is second to his family of his wife and two kids, whom he enjoys spending time with through activities such as sports, hanging out at the beach, camping, hiking and many other outdoor activities.

Richard Cochran, PhD, ECAL Director

Email: recochran@ucsd.edu
Phone: 858-822-3330
Fax: 858-534-6255

Tian Zeng, Undergraduate Research Assistant
Kara Hahn, Undergraduate Research Assistant


UCSD Campus Location
Urey Hall – Room 2112


Mailing Address:
Environmental and Complex Analysis Laboratory
University of California San Diego
Urey Hall 1204 MC 0314
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093-0314

Maps & Parking
A campus map is available; Urey Hall is labeled as building “113”. For visitor parking, stop by the Information Center on Gilman Drive (see map below) to purchase a parking permit (also shown on the map). These permits will allow you to park in the B (green) parking spots.


Tools & Resources


Sample Submission Guidelines