History of the AAR lab
The idea for the establishment of an amino acid dating facility was Prof. Darrel Maddy's, who had previously worked with the pioneer of AAR dating in the UK, Prof. David Bowen. Darrel approached Matthew Collins, then a geochemist at Newcastle University who had published theoretical papers on the application of AAR and together they secured funding from NERC, the University and the Catherine Cookson Foundation. Kirsty Penkman was recruited as a NERC PhD student and was responsible for setting up the laboratory, named aar@ncl. The first Standard Operating Procedures for the lab were written by Lyndsey Palmer, who had previously worked as an industrial analytical chemist. The lab moved to the University of York in 2003 and became NEaar (North-East amino acid racemization; named to recognised the contrbutions of both Newcastle and York). Technical support has been provided by Richard Allen (2007 - 2012), Matthew von Tersch (2012 - 2015) and Sheila Taylor from 2011. The NEaar lab became NERC-recognised in 2008 and has hosted over 80 British and international researchers, from undergraduate students to academic staff.
Our ongoing “Total Quality Management” system (TQM) seeks to identify possible areas of weakness in analyses and eliminate sources of error. In NEaar this includes regular monitoring of all potential sources of error and contamination, such as identification of the origin of all reagents, regular calibration of pipettes, and methods for logging and storing samples and analytes. The TQM is annually reviewed and updated, with regular servicing and preventative maintenance of the high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) machines.