2017 CSUPERB FACULTY RESEARCH AWARD: Dr. Joseph Pesek, Professor, Department of Chemistry, San José State University

Dr. Pesek was recognized not only for his outstanding research productivity and his dedication to students, but also his persistence in building on theoretical studies to commercialize high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) products. Dr. Pesek’s analytical chemistry research group at SJSU studies separation methods as applied to metabolomics and proteomics. Dr. Pesek has “demonstrated on numerous occasions an intellectual generosity, a willingness to share ideas and an unwavering commitment to scientific rigor that builds excellence in research collaborations at both a national and international level.” Over his career, he worked with over 100 undergraduate researchers, served as the primary research advisor for exactly 100 Master’s students, and hosted over 50 visiting scientists and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world. His group has published over 230 peer-reviewed papers and garnered $6.95 million in research grants. One nomination letter from a former student included this statement, “Dr. Pesek offers a great balance of human, academic and business intelligence. His passion, integrity and high work ethic exemplifies what every professor should be.” Pictured here (left to right): Daryl Eggers (Department of Chemistry, SanJosé State University), Sep Eskandari (Biological Sciences, Cal Poly Pomona & Chair, 2017 Faculty Research Award Selection Committee), Dr. Pesek &  Pam Stacks (Associate Vice President, Office of Research, San José State University).


Link: http://www.csuperb.org/symposium/awards/

Pesek’s Research group

Presenting five posters at Undergraduate Symposium, St. Mary's College. April 30th 2016: Dung Lam, Irene Lin, Sunny Jarman, Cuong Pham, Charlie Ly, Tina Nguyen, Joshua Topete and Natalie Villanueva.

Presenting five posters at Undergraduate Symposium, St. Mary’s College. April 30th 2016: Dung Lam, Irene Lin, Sunny Jarman, Cuong Pham, Charlie Ly, Tina Nguyen, Joshua Topete and Natalie Villanueva.

Students - 2013

Pesek’s research group (2012-2013.

San Jose State University students from Joe and Maria Pesek’s research group (2012-2013)

From left: Prof. Joe Pesek, Caesar, Colby Tse,  Andy Dang, Andrew Jimena, Loan Nguyen, My-Tops Ly,  Ally Hasbun, Prof. Maria Matyska-Pesek, Vy Phan,  Rosie Le,  Amy Myeonghui Kim, Alana Nguyen, Hong Nguyen, Cherisa Ablao, Monita Sieng, Tong Huyen, Emily Vuong.

Caesar M. and Colby Tse collected retention times data to be correlated with zeta potential measurements.  They work on a manuscript in collaboration with center for Green Chemistry at Monash University, Melbourne Australia.  They presented their work at 9th CoS research day and at the ACS Undergraduate Research Symposium in Santa Clara University.

Andy Dang (Undergraduate Student – BS Chemistry, College of Chemistry). Andy currently works at the California Institute for Medical Research (2012-2013), where he collaborates with partnered labs in the study of pre-diabetes among pregnant women, as well as childhood obesity. He also serves as a full-time student (2009-2013) and research assistant (2011-2013) for Dr. Joseph Pesek and Dr. Maria Matyska at SJSU, where he develops chromatographic methods for biomedical compounds. He presented his work at the International HPLC 2012 meeting and in two publications (“Analysis of cycloserine and related compounds using aqueous normal phase chromatography/mass spectrometry”, J.J. Pesek, M.T. Matyska, A. Dang, J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal., 64-65 (2012) 72-76 and The use of aqueous normal phase chromatography as an analytical tool for food analysis, manuscript in revision) . He is working on a 3rd publication with Monita Sieng as coauthor. Andy was recently a student lab assistant for an analytical chemistry lab (2012), “Quantitative Methods of Analysis”. He has been a recipient of the Scholars in Science Scholarship (2011-2013), the Salzburg Program (2012-2013) and the Spring Presidents’ Commission Scholars Program (2012-2013). He received a Neptune scholarship award two times. His interests include playing basketball, watching old movies, & traveling.  Before joining Pesek’s research group Andy was working in the cinema. He says that starting research was the best thing that he did as undergraduate student.

Loan Nguyen, says ”  I’m doing a research on the determination of Isoniazid in tablets  using HPLC methods. in my free time, I usually do volunteering at American Red Cross San Jose blood center. ”

Amy Myeonghui Kim (Undergraduate Student – BA Chemistry, College of Chemistry). Amy currently works at Chemistry Student Service Center (2012-2013) as a student assistant. She is also a full time student (2009-2013) and research assistant (2012-2013) for Dr. Joseph Pesek and Dr. Maria Matyska at SJSU. She enjoyed analytical chemistry lab so much, so decided to join the research lab. Her manuscript on the evaluation of silica hydride-based stationary phases for the analysis of drugs of abuse has been recently accepted for publication by Journal of Separation Science. Amy has received Neptune’s scholarship award and been honored as a Dean’s Scholar (2013). She loves watching movies and playing piano. She says doing research gave her valuable experiences, and she enjoyed every single thing she did as a student research assistant.

Vy Phan, was accepted to pharmacy school.  Vy wrote: “The school I will be attending is Touro College of Pharmacy. They’re the sister school of Touro University here in Vallejo, CA. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your support and help! I couldn’t have done it without your help! Thank you!”


Pesek's research students (2013)

Pesek’s research students (2013)

Michael Nshanian (4th from the left – picture below) was accepted  into PhD program in  Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, UCLA in the group of Prof. Joseph A. Loo .


San Jose State University students from Joe and Maria Pesek’s research group (2009-2011)


San Jose State University students from Joe and Maria Pesek’s research group

Recent Grants

2015 – 2018

Prof. Joseph Pesek received a grant from the Brazilian government agency (CNPg) associated with Ministry of Science and Technology and Dr. Maria Matyska-Pesek received a grant from Brazilian government agency (CAPES) linked to Ministry of Education.  Grants are devoted to development of new separation methods for analysis of different food products, impurities in food, main components and monitoring the changes in food after food processing.

Prof. Joseph Pesek and Dr. Maria Matyska-Pesek agreed to  travel to Universidade Federal de Pelotas, RS, Brasil and spend several weeks (up to a maximum of three months) during the course of the project (3 years) working with Ph.D. students and professors at the university in Pelotas.


Link: http://blogs.sjsu.edu/today/2013/keck-foundation-provides-250000-for-science-lab-class-innovations/

The W. M. Keck Foundation has made a $250,000 gift to San Jose State to develop laboratory exercises more similar to what students will find in the workplace while introducing new technology into the curriculum.

Professor of Analytical Chemistry Joseph Pesek will serve as principal investigator, working with Professor of Material and Chemical Engineering Claire Komives, Professor of Biological Sciences Brandon White and Professor of Justice Studies Steven Lee.

Faculty and student researchers will develop applications for aqueous normal-phase chromatography, a method for analyzing samples developed at San Jose State. Protocols for these applications will become the basis for lab exercises, to be tested as classwork for SJSU students.

Keck Foundation Provides $250,000 for Science Lab Class Innovations

Professor Joseph Pesek

In this way, the project will provide undergraduate research opportunities and benefit the next generation of college students.

This aligns well with Professor Pesek’s record of service, including more than four decades of teaching and mentoring experience, almost entirely at San Jose State.

The professor has helped nearly 100 graduate students complete their theses, mentored 60 undergraduate research students in his lab, and he’s not done yet.

“If we are successful,” Pesek said, “our work could touch hundreds if not thousands of lab science students, depending on how many institutions adopt the new protocols for use in their teaching laboratories.”

The W.M. Keck Foundation supports pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research.

In the area of education, the foundation supports undergraduate programs that promote inventive approaches to instruction and effective involvement of students in research.

Joseph J. Pesek, San Jose State University, NSF Grant Number: CHE-0724218
Title:  Improving the Understanding of the Properties and Retention Behavior of Chemically Bonded Stationary Phases Employing Spectroscopic and Chromatographic Characterization Techniques

Project Description:  The Pesek research group at San Jose State University has developed a unique material, silica hydride.  The materials are studied by nuclear magnetic resonance, a technique related to MRI used in medical diagnoses, in collaboration with Professor Klaus Albert at the University of Tübingen in Germany.  Silica hydride has been shown to be more adaptable to the analysis of samples from simple organic compounds to large biological molecules than currently available commercial materials which are based on ordinary silica.  Analysis of complex mixtures is essential for such fields as disease diagnosis, drug development, forensics, food safety and environmental monitoring.  The separation material developed at San Jose State provides major benefits in all of these critical areas.  Practical applications using this material are being developed by laboratories across the country and around the world.  Understanding how the silica hydride functions will enable these labs and research groups to use them more effectively.  Several students from San Jose State University and Ph.D. students from UNIVERSITÄT TÜBINGEN Institut für Organishe Chemie worked together on the project. Their collaborative research in chemical separations at San Jose and nuclear magnetic resonance in Germany makes it possible to better understand the properties and capabilities of silica hydride in order to solve practical chemical analysis problems.

Josh Young, undergraduate chemistry major at San Jose State, who worked on synthesis of silica hydride and traveled to Germany to help analyze its properties by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

 Josh Young


Analysis of cycloserine and related compounds using aqueous normal phase chromatography/mass spectrometry

Authors: Joseph J. Pesek*, Maria T. Matyska and Andy Dang,  J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal., 64-65 (2012) 72-76.


A new approach is evaluated for the analysis of cycloserine, a strongly hydophilic drug.  The method utilized is aqueous normal phase chromatography with a silica hydride-based stationary phase and mass spectrometry for detection.  The samples are analyzed to determine the number of components and their identify when possible.  In addition, the composition change is monitored with respect to time and sample solvent.  Analyses using both gradient and isocratic conditions are presented.  The repeatability of inter- and intraday analyses is also determined.

The manuscript below was published as an original research article for publication in the “HPLC 2010” special issue of the Journal of Chromatography A.

Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry compatible approaches for the quantitation of folic acid in fortified juices and cereals using aqueous normal phase conditions

Authors: Josh E. Young (picture above), Maria T. Matyska, Joseph J. Pesek , J. Chromatogr. A, 1218 (2011) 2121-2126.

The quantitation of folic acid in fortified cereals and juices by HPLC typically employs lengthy sample cleanup steps such as solid phase extraction in order to remove sample components which would co-elute with the analyte in the HPLC runs. This is because the HPLC runs are often performed in a reverse phase or ion-pair reverse phase mode; many of the matrix components exhibit similar chromatographic properties in these modes and therefore co-elute in the HPLC runs. However, use of silica hydride-based HPLC columns developed by the Pesek Research Group allowed for adequate separation of folic acid from the other matrix components without solid phase extraction sample cleanup. This was due to the use of a retention mode which is unique to silica hydride-based materials. Termed aqueous normal phase chromatography, this separation mode retains compounds on the basis of hydrophilicity. Using this technique, the hydrophilic folic acid was adequately retained and separated from the other matrix components, many of which eluted near the void volume. As such, the separation acted as the sample cleanup, thereby streamlining the analysis.

The manuscript “Open tubular capillary electrochromatography of small polar molecules using etched, chemically modified capillaries” by Joseph J. Pesek, Maria T. Matyska and Michael Nshanian was published in ELECTROPHORESIS.  Michael (picture below: graduate student in Prof. Pesek’s group) wrote the manuscript based on the results from his MS thesis.  The manuscript  highlights how capillary electrochromatography can be used for the analysis of metabolites.  These methods are used in biomarker discovery, in disease diagnosis and for drug analysis. Electrophoresis is a peer-reviewed international journal.”

Michael Nshanian

Michael by Agilent CE instrument.


Group 2007