Ahmed Zewail Award in Ultrafast Science & Technology | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 1 | p. 30 | Awards
Issue Date: January 1, 2007

Ahmed Zewail Award in Ultrafast Science & Technology

Department: ACS News
Credit: Courtesy of Robin M. Hochstrasser
Credit: Courtesy of Robin M. Hochstrasser

Sponsored by the Ahmed Zewail Endowment Fund

Robin M. Hochstrasser, along with his students and postdoctoral colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, has developed many of the modern spectroscopic methods, both linear and nonlinear, for the study of dynamical processes in condensed-phase chemistry and biology. His work has led to new areas of research in a variety of disciplines.

Hochstrasser is one of the pioneers in ultrafast spectroscopy. In fact, he has often been the first, or among the first, to bring out new concepts or technology or to apply unique forms of spectroscopy to new questions. Since the mid-1980s, he has spearheaded the development of femtosecond infrared techniques to study problems associated with the vibrational structure of proteins and dynamics of molecules. His recent work on developing two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy has opened up a major new field of structural biology for the determination of the time dependence of structural changes in proteins.

A few years after the development of picosecond pulses, his lab made the first direct time-domain measurements of charge-overlap-mediated energy transfer between molecules in liquids and energy flow from one part of a molecule to another, the direct study of intersystem crossing from singlets to triplets by observing the triplet-triplet absorption, and the determination of the spectra of electronically excited and transiently hot molecules.

Hochstrasser's group was among the first to apply ultrafast optical spectroscopy to questions relating to protein and ligand dynamics. They reported the first broadband picosecond spectra of photolyzed hemoglobin and myoglobin derivatives in experiments that enabled them to discover the fast geminate reactions of oxygen and hemoglobin and ultrafast protein-ligand dynamics. Later, their work on the photolysis of carbon monoxide from hemoglobin became the first example of femtosecond infrared spectroscopy.

His group pioneered the study of picosecond time-scale cis-trans isomerization of aromatic molecules in solutions and gases and their relation to statistical mechanical theories. His work in the area of liquid dynamics has influenced the basis and direction of the field of ultrafast dynamics over much of the 1980s and '90s. He was the first to report direct time-domain measurements of the long-sought-after Kramers turnover in the rates of activated barrier-crossing processes.

Hochstrasser and his colleagues were the first to obtain the two-photon spectrum of a molecule with a tunable dye laser. Their studies of benzene and nitric oxide vapors produced the first two-photon rotational-vibration-electronic spectrum of a molecule.

A native of Scotland, Hochstrasser received a B.Sc. degree in applied chemistry from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. He is currently the Donner Professor of Physical Sciences and the director of the Regional Laser & Biomedical Technology Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is the recipient of many distinguished lectureships and awards, most recently the Peter Debye Award, the E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy, the Albert F. Cotton Medal, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Physical Chemistry.-Janet Dodd

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