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Analytical Chemistry at the Center of the Galaxy

Monday, November 16, 2009 - 11:20am

2009 Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition

Garden State Exhibit Center, Somerset, NJ


Brooks H. Pate

William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry

Director of Astrochemistry in Charlottesville

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904

Tel: (434) 924-7219; Fax: (434) 924-3710


Research Page:




The detection of molecules in space is an extreme example of remote chemical sensing and requires spectroscopic observation of molecules about 23,000 light-years from earth.  Molecular rotational spectroscopy is one of the most powerful ways to identify molecules located in dense molecular clouds.  The rotational spectrum of a molecule conveys information about the molecular shape and is the most distinctive spectroscopic chemical signature.  The rapid pace of development in high-speed digital electronics is revolutionizing the measurement technology for rotational spectroscopy for both radiotelescopes and laboratory instruments.  In laboratory instruments, measurement time reductions by a factor of about 10,000 have become possible in an 8 year time frame.  In astronomy, the next generation radiotelescopes will use speed enhancements to produce chemical images of the galaxy with high spatial resolution.  For both astronomy and chemistry, a new era of high-throughput molecular rotational spectroscopy has arrived.  The emerging scientific opportunities for learning about the formation of stars, planets, and life (astronomy) and high-speed library-free chemical identification of complex gas mixtures (analytical chemistry) will be examined.





Brooks H. Pate is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia. He is also the Director of the Astrochemistry in Charlottesville, headquarted at the University of Virginia. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1987 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University in 1992. He was an NRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Molecular Spectroscopy Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1991-1993. His research interests include vibrational dynamics and the spectroscopy of highly excited molecules. He has published papers in the most prestigious and widely read journals of Chemistry, Chemical Physics, and Molecular Spectroscopy. Dr. Pate was the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award in 1993, the NSF CAREER Award in 1996, and the Coblentz Award in 1999. In addition, he was selected as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar in 1998, a MacArthur Fellow in 2001, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2008.