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Chemistry in the Interstellar Medium

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 4:00pm

Chemistry Department Seminar, University of Virginia


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


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The first detection of a polyatomic molecule in the interstellar medium (ISM) occurred about 40 years ago and since this time the known chemical inventory of the ISM has increased at a steady rate to include about 160 molecules, at present.  These molecules include common organic and inorganic compounds as well as more exotic chemical species including ions and radicals.  The vast majority of molecular detections have used molecular rotational spectroscopy in the microwave and mm-wave frequency regions.  In the next few years, a new generation of telescopes for radio astronomy will be commissioned and will provide chemists with new tools to understand the mechanistic chemistry of the interstellar medium.  In particular, two new telescope array facilities of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) will produce multi-species chemical maps of the interstellar medium with high spatial resolution.  This seminar will describe research in the Astrochemistry in Charlottesville that is examining how these new measurement capabilities can be used to gain insight on the chemical reaction processes at work in the ISM.  A particular focus of the Center research effort is to assemble state-of-the-art tools from all areas of physical chemistry to provide an interdisciplinary research environment that can help reveal the initial chemistry of the universe.       




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.