Background of SAAMS

SAAMS was established in 1981 when Dr Louis Van Dyk from the Plant Protection Research Institute, who had GC-MS facilities for nearly three years at that time, thought it necessary to form a group which could address operational problems of the mass spectrometry users. At that stage, an active Chromatography Discussion group existed, under the guidance of the late Prof. Victor Pretorius, but there was no equivalent forum for mass spectrometrists.

 During these early years mass spectrometry was confined to special research or analytical groups of, as Dr van Dyk put it, "Priests worshipping at the high altar of MS-technology" and the instruments were not exactly user friendly, with the available computers taking up as much space as the mass spectrometer instrumentation itself.

 People involved in organic MS were contacted for an inaugural meeting at the Coal Research Institute of the CSIR held in June 1981. Dr Willie van Niekerk, of the then 'Atomic Energy Board', got to hear about the proposed meeting and contacted Dr van Dyk requesting that all Mass Spectrometrists be invited since there were so few experts in South Africa.

 The meeting took place in the form of a mini-symposium at which a number of scientific presentations were presented. At the end of the symposium it was decided to form a professional association and after much debate, the name SAAMS, suggested by Dr Zeno Apostolidies, was adopted since the acronym could be used, both in English and in Afrikaans.

 Dr Willie van Niekerk was elected the first chairman and Dr van Dyk was elected secretary/treasurer. About 20 people attended the inaugural meeting and almost immediately after, "crowds" of up to 50 people were attending the one day symposiums and workshops organised and presented.

From the outset it was felt that it would be useful to affiliate with the South African Chemical Institute and the association, together with the Chromatography group became the first subject specific sections of SACI.

In 1984, Dr Laurraine Lotter took over as chairman and SAAMS has continued to grow. The committee, which has grown over the years, is elected every two years and includes representatives from different disciplines using mass spectrometry for analysis as well as from the commercial suppliers of mass spectrometry instrumentation. Regional representatives for the areas outside of Gauteng are nominated and co-ordinate any mass spectrometry activities in their regions. A strong and active group of mass spectrometrists also have regular scientific meetings in the Western Cape region.

The present membership stands at just over 350 members from research institutions, government laboratories, commercial analytical groups and suppliers with most members from South Africa although there is a growing African contingent and a number of members from all over the scientific world.

The association does not ask an annual membership fee and the committee organise several scientific meetings each year where applications and new developments are presented to the audience. The first meeting of the year is usually dedicated to a more popular subject where mass spectrometry can play a role and provides a forum where members are honoured for their role in the mass spectrometry developments.

The association jointly organises National or International congresses every second year alternating between the Analitika and ChromSAAMS series of congresses. These congresses draw approximately 180 to 150 delegates respectively, with most from southern Africa but include invited speakers, usually from strong research groups in Europe, North America or Australia.

Areas of interest cover the GC/MS as well as the LC/MS, LC-MS/MS techniques with the inorganic applications also enjoying a new growth in mass spectral applications. The new biological applications and trends in “omics” owe their rapid growth to the ever increasing mass spectrometer capability and applications in many new areas as reliable analytical methods are developed.