A Week in the Life of Ian Davidson, LC-MS System Service Engineer

By October 10, 2017

Establishing and running a successful laboratory requires many components to come together. If you call a service engineer, you need to be confident that you get the right support for the complete system.

Let me introduce Ian, who works as an LC-MS system engineer based in the UK. In his role he is responsible for system installs, service, and maintenance. Ian has worked at Waters for five years, after 30 years working for a large pharmaceutical company. Being a former customer drives Ian’s approach to customer service and going the extra mile.


This morning I am visiting a local research company. Over the weekend their instrument reported a fault. Today I will be getting their LC-MS system up and running again.

Tuesday and Wednesday

Today I will be working in a life science research lab that has reported a loss of sensitivity on their instrument. I start by running the install specs, which confirms the fault. I have a quick chat with the customer about the how they have been running the instrument. I suspect the most likely cause of the loss in sensitivity is contamination in the front of the MS, and that what we need to do is clean the ion optics.

I leave the instrument to pump down over night.

On Wednesday, I run the instrument specification tests, which thankfully pass first time! I suspected the reason the instrument became dirty quite quickly was due to the sample preparation the customer was using. I did a little bit of reading last night and found an alternative sample preparation method and a paper that explains the process.

The scientists in the customer lab are biochemists using the LC-MS system to support their research, and they ask me additional questions about the system to help them in their day-to-day work. We spend the afternoon discussing sample preparation and basic user maintenance. I hope they are feeling more confident and independent using the system after some training this afternoon.


Today I am traveling to Bristol to work on a supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) system. The customer who we are going to see reported a loss of pressure in the system. After a little troubleshooting and a discussion with the customer, the issue was identified as being with the CO2 cylinder – the supplier had delivered a new but empty gas cylinder. Thankfully there was a spare we could use. Once the system was back up and running, some solvent standards were injected to test the instrument. These tests led us to learn that LC needle was blocked.

Before leaving the customer and I did additional troubleshooting and maintenance training, which included changing the needle.


Today I am in a food testing lab. Our customer support team has remotely diagnosed a problem with solvent contamination in the system. As LC-MS instruments have become more sensitive, solvent contamination has become a greater challenge. I clean the LC and check the health of the whole system while I am on site.

Next week I am installing an unusual system configuration. I do some homework so that I am prepared and make plans with my colleague. I will not be able to complete the entire install by myself and will need software specialists’ support, so I book their time.

What’s next?

Bespoke application support through Waters Professional Services team.

We hope you enjoyed taking a look #behindcloseddoors at Waters Wilmslow!



A Day in the Life at Waters…


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