Mass spectrometry is a technique used to identify the chemical makeup of a given sample, and University of Montana researcher Robert Smith just earned funding that may improve the process.

Smith, a UM computer science assistant professor, was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. He will receive $742,000 during the next five years.

CAREER grants are the most prestigious award for junior faculty, and this is the third one presented to a UM researcher this year.

“I am very excited for this award,” Smith said. “It provides the resources for the next phase of our research, which presents the possibility of dramatically advancing the field of mass spectrometry.”

Mass spectrometry has a broad range of applications of societal interest, including in medicine, forensics and basic biological sciences. This may lead to advances in fields like medical diagnostics, drug development and better research into poorly understood ailments involving proteins, such as Alzheimer’s disease.