Category Archives: pickering laboratories

Paralytic Shellfish Toxins

By: Saji George

The paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTS) are a group of secondary metabolites (biotoxins) deposited in bivalve shellfish by dinoflagelates. Dinoflagelates blooms are seasonal, occurring during warm months. Since it is unpredictable whether an infestation will occur, the shellfish population should be regularly monitored for toxins. Ingestion of contaminated shellfish can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning; a life-threatening illness.

Mouse bioassay (MBA) was the official method of AOAC International, but the drawbacks associated with this method have led to exploration of chemical methods. The most common HPLC post-column method is to oxidize the separated toxins under alkaline conditions to a fluorescent compound. Sullivan et al. used this method to determine the gonyautoxins 1-6 (GTX1-6), saxitoxin (STX) and neosaxitoxin (neoSTX) but not the N-sulfocarbamoyl-11-hydroxysulfate toxins (C1-C4). Oshima et al. modified this method to determine the 3 toxin groups separately using isocratic elution with 3 different mobile phases. An improved method using post-column oxidation (PCOX) followed by fluorescence detection was developed by Canadian Food inspection Agency (CFIA) in collaboration with National Research Council Canada (CNRC) has led to a shorter analysis time to determine the 3 groups of toxins using step gradient and a switching valve.

This method offers a high throughput alternative to live animal testing or lengthy instrumental methods currently acceptable for regulatory testing. All MBA analyses for PSTs were eliminated in CFIA laboratories when the PCOX method was granted Official Method of Analysis (OMA), First Action status in April, 2011, and the PCOX method was considered a quantitative, regulatory method, without the need for MBA confirmation of results. The PCOX method was promoted to AOAC OMA 2011.02, Final Action status in 2013.

For further reading/information here’s a very helpful link to a video from one of our customers, The Sitka Tribe of Alaska , which does a great job walking through the collection/testing process.  If you are interested, Pickering Labs has created our own PSP method utilizing our Post-Column instrumentation.

More 20th Anniversary Celebrations for our Staff!

By: Jim Murphy and Rebecca Smith (with contributions from Kevin and David)

Our parade of well-wishes for our long-time employees continues as we congratulate our friends Saji George and Sareeta Nerkar on their 20 years of service at Pickering Labs.  We can’t speak for the two of them, but on our side, Jim and I have loved every minute of our time with these two chemists!  

Since Saji and Sareeta began working here in 2002, they have each been a big part of Pickering’s many milestones, from the launching of our Vector (2005), Pinnacle (2006) and Onyx (2020) instruments all the way to the earliest advent of our PTS product line (2007).  We are so proud of both women and their many accomplishments, here at the lab and out in the greater scientific community. 

In addition to her daily contributions as our brilliantly organized QA Manager, Saji has also been a driving force behind our emergence as a trusted partner in the AATCC textile-testing world, serving as our main ambassador and lending her technical expertise to that organization’s members.  She has also taken on this role at the WEAR Conference, supporting both smart textiles as well as wearable electronics manufacturers.  On the Post-Column side of our business, she has been part of the development of many analytical methods, most recently for Paralytic Shellfish Toxins and Formaldehyde analysis.

Saji’s 20th anniversary in October 2022.

Meanwhile, Sareeta has long been a member of our small but dynamic R&D team.  Her contributions as a Research Chemist (most recently in Cannabinoids, Nitrosamines and Mycotoxins applications) also extend beyond these walls, as Sareeta is an active member of the NACRW.  She has recently expanded her NACRW role to include conference Social Chair in addition to representing Pickering while in attendance.  Sareeta is also a repeat presenter at the Emerald Conference and this year, she’ll be showcasing a poster at the Cannabis Science Conference. 

Sareeta at her September 2022 celebration, with Jim and Rebecca alongside.

A long-time resident of the Bay Area, Saji raised her two boys (Isaac and Thomas) with her husband George in Palo Alto and while living there became great friends with Judy Pickering, the wife of our late founder Michael Pickering.  Since her two boys have “flown the coop”, Saji and George have relocated back to her beloved Monterey Peninsula and, yes, she does make the drive up to our office in Mountain View daily (she’s very fond of audiobooks!).  Saji’s favorite things include tennis and gardening and she’ll gladly tell you about her trip to Wimbledon, just ask!

Saji and husband George at a holiday party with Judy Pickering.

Sareeta and her husband Nitin have also raised two children into adulthood.  Over the years, her daughters Pooja and Revati have attended several Pickering luncheons.  And Pooja even recently accompanied Sareeta to Rebecca’s wedding!  Talk about family. 😊 When she’s not here at work, Sareeta enjoys the chemistry of cooking.  Finding joy in the overlaps between laboratory and kitchen is a hobby she shared with Michael Pickering, as you might recall from newsletter articles in the past.  Sareeta has shared her love of cooking with her daughters and husband, but these days she also shares a little taste here and there with her dog, Leo!

Sareeta and daughter Pooja, in St. Helena with Rebecca and Paul.

Jim and I appreciate both of these awesome chemists so much and we cannot thank them enough for their contributions during 20 years here at Pickering.  Congratulations again to Sareeta and Saji!  Cheers!





Dow High Space Farmers

By: Kevin McKeown

At Pickering Labs we have always been very interested in the applications of our customers.  Our Artificial Body Fluids solutions have been used in cutting-edge COVID research, during early-stage development of some of the coolest tech gadgets, ensuring proper functionality of medical implants and many, many more novel purposes.  We wanted to highlight another use that we found particularly compelling.

Recently we were contacted by Margaret E. Hitt from Herbert Henry Dow High School in Midland, Michigan with a request for our Artificial Eccrine Perspiration.  Margaret is working on a cortisol biosensor to objectively test stress for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) and was in need of a sweat solution that closely mimicked actual human sweat, a very neat application!  This led us to look further into, and learn about, a wonderful program that is forward-looking and just plain cool: Dow High Space Farmers

Here’s a description of the program, and the scientific team, from their website:

 “An energetic group of Michigan students from Midland’s Dow High School, who are also Space Botany Researchers and growing future scientists in STEM.   We are part of NASA-sponsored programs, “Growing Beyond Earth” and “NASA HUNCH” (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware).

We stay in close touch with NASA scientists, conducting space botany research based on the rigorous procedures, while also keeping touch with our creative and critical-thinking side through student-proposed original research and experimentation.  We present our research to NASA scientists and administrators in the GBE Research Sympoisum, International Space Station Research & Development Conference, and Michigan Space Grant Consortium Conference. 

As someone who has long-struggled to keep my tomato and cucumber plants alive, this is just mind-blowing to me that the Dow High Space Farmers are researching ways to grow in space!  I mistakenly thought that Matt Damon’s farming scene from “The Martian” was pure science-fiction, but it seems like the youth of H.H. Dow High School are turning this into a reality.  Please visit their site if you’d like to learn more about this fascinating program.

Pittcon Announcement

By: Kevin McKeown

After what seems like a decade, but in reality is only 3 years, Pickering Labs is happy to FINALLY be back at exhibiting at Pittcon!  This year’s show will be in Philadelphia from March 20th to March 22nd.

We will be at Booth 2138 and in attendance will be Rebecca Smith, David Mazawa and Kevin McKeown.  If you, or anyone from your company, plan on attending we encourage you to stop by and say hello.  We will have daily giveaways and prizes include Apple Airpods and an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite!  Also displayed at our booth will be one of our Onyx instruments, some samples of our Artificial Body Fluid (PTS) solutions and a myriad of other literature for you to peruse.

We look forward to seeing all of our customers, international dealers and old friends that we’ve only been able to converse with over video conference for the past few years.  We wish everyone who’s attending safe travels and cannot wait to see you there!

Pickering Laboratories Celebrates Our 40th Anniversary!

By: Rebecca Smith

It is with great pride that we announce (AGAIN!) the celebration of our 40-year anniversary!  We thought it appropriate to have a repost of this event, as we have combined the 40th anniversary with a new cover design of our catalog.  Combine the new catalog cover with our inability to properly celebrate at Pittcon 2022 and you have a recipe for a repost!

As part of our efforts to honor this milestone achievement, we created an interactive timeline of our history.  It can be found at the following link:

Our late friend and founder, Dr. Michael Pickering, began this journey in 1982.  As the namesake of our company, Michael’s many achievements are reflected throughout our timeline but also in our company’s logo and especially in our “Guaranteed Chemistry” watermark, which we’ve updated for this special anniversary.  We continue to uphold his legacy of high quality and dedicated support for our customers. 

As you visit the timeline, you’ll be able to relive the important milestones that we’ve reached during the last four decades, including: a United States patent for our Ninhydrin reagent Trione, introduction of our PCX post-column instrumentation, publishment in official methods and many more highlights.  If you look closely at our shiny new 40th anniversary logo, you may even see a familiar chromatogram or two!

We would like to extend a special “Thank You!” to all of the customers and dealers who have joined us throughout these historic four decades.  We would not be a successful company still today without the trust, partnership and loyalty which you have shown us.  As a small business, we want each of our customers to know that their orders over the years have supported and directly impacted our scientific contributions to the analytical community.  We look forward to our partnership together for many years to come, as well.

And finally, we wish to acknowledge that we could not have made this company a success without our most valuable assets: our employees!  As you may have noticed in the last couple newsletters, our very dedicated colleagues have been celebrating a lot of 20th and 30th work anniversaries lately!  This fantastic team works so hard every day to support our customers; we are so proud and grateful to have them. 

Please, we would be honored if you’d pop the champagne, raise a glass, and celebrate with us! 

Cheers to our Pickering Labs family!  Cheers to our customers and distributors!  Cheers as well to sustaining Michael’s legacy for another 40 years! 

And a clink of our glasses for the scientific work we all do in the world.

We’re No Strangers to Love (at Pickering)

By Rebecca Smith

For regular readers of the Pickering newsletter, perhaps my longtime partner Paul doesn’t feel like a complete stranger…  After all, one of the perks (?) of being in a relationship with me is that periodically Paul’s name and picture make it into one of my articles, as I often share stories about our life here in the blog.  And at this point, Paul has attended a decade’s worth of Pickering company events!  He was our volunteer Pickering photographer for the Onyx PCX launch party, among other support roles.  Over the last decade, as Paul has become part of my family, he has also become part of the Pickering Labs family.

PLI group picture from the wedding!

Paul and I are so appreciative that many members of this great Pickering Labs family were able to be present for our wedding.  It would not have been the same celebration without them!  And certainly, many folks here had been long awaiting the chance to attend this event.  Saji and Anita, for example, have often politely (?) inquired as to when the party would finally occur, since Paul and I were engaged for quite a long time.  After several years of COVID interfering with company holiday parties, it was especially fun to get fancy with the team and spend time with their partners, family and friends. 

Over the years, the PLI team has been such a big part of my life and journey together with Paul… Dating all the way back to the beginning, even!  Paul and I were married in October 2022 on our ten-year anniversary, so one of the earliest ‘boyfriend hurdles’ he actually overcame was gaining approval at his first Pickering holiday party!  I’ll forever cherish my memories of Michael Pickering’s delight upon first meeting Paul, at that very same party in December 2012.  They instantly bonded over their relative statures (I’m quite tall).  Michael pulled me aside to tell me how thrilled he was that I was finally dating a shorter man.  He predicted that Paul would be, as my grandmother says, “a keeper,” and that he would make me very happy.  As it so happens, Michael was right. 

Holiday Party 2012, with Michael (left) and then Paul (right).
Paul making me happy ten years later, as predicted!

One of the nice things about taking our sweet time to tie the knot was my apparent complete lack of nerves.  I was all smiles getting ready that morning, as you can see!  Not a worry on my face! 

Getting ready on the big day…

Thanks to the marvelous assistance of our wedding planner and enthusiastic participation of our guests, I’d say the ceremony went off without a hitch, too!

Wedding ceremony, capturing those “I do” feelings!

Right after our ceremony seemed like the perfect time for group pictures, although I do hope that the Pickering team didn’t miss too much of cocktail hour.  Farmstead did a fantastic job with the passed appetizers, so hopefully Jim and the team here got enough to eat!

Anita and Gaby giving Paul a congratulatory toast!

Pickering Labs and our employees are such a huge part of my life.  I am so grateful to have these wonderful people around me, and I don’t just mean only on this celebratory occasion.  They lift me up, and as we support each other, it provides true purpose for my work.  Being part of this team gives me passion for what I do every single day.  The vision Michael Pickering had for this special workplace is a legacy which inspires all of us to put our best efforts towards our products and customers, so that they can impact the world with their essential work.  But these individuals also inspire me, with their warmth and dedication, as well as their commitment and integrity.  When they say “Welcome to the Pickering Labs family,” what they mean is “we will show up at your wedding two hours away, on time and ready to cheer for you, your spouse, and all of your ridiculous music choices!” 

Pickering team, I love you all dearly.  Oh yeah, and I love Paul too, so thank you for your support of our relationship and celebration of our eventual wedding.  Cheers! 

New Employee Spotlight – Luca Nardin

By: Chris Nguyen

Our employee family is growing once again!  Pickering Laboratories is happy to introduce the newest member of our team: Luca Nardin

Luca joined us in August 2022, stepping into his new role as a Production Chemist, with a particular focus on our Reagent manufacturing.  As many of you know, these particular solutions that we sell are always in high-demand, so Luca has been quite busy at the start of his Pickering Labs career!

Outside of work, Luca enjoys hiking, tennis and driving cars.  Like many of his fellow Pickering employees, Luca also has a love of reading.  The particular genre being Fiction and Science Fiction novels.  Luca and his family are from the Venice region of Italy and, maybe owing to this rich historical upbringing, he loves to learn about the medieval and renaissance eras.

Luca is a local product, attending Los Altos High School only 4 miles away from Pickering’s Headquarters in Mountain View.  After high school, Luca matriculated at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  As you can see from his photo, Luca is still a big Fighting Illini fan!

Welcome, Luca!