Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science (b. 1939)
B.A., 1961; Ph.D., 1964, Harvard University
Fresenius Award, 1974; National Academy of Sciences, 1976; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1976; American Philosophical Society, 1991; Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, 1999; Michael Polanyi Medal, 1979; Earle K. Plyler Prize, 1981; Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh Award, 1983; National Medal of Science, 1983; Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics, 1985; Michelson-Morley Award, 1986; Kirkwood Medal, 1986; Willard Gibbs Medal, 1990; Peter Debye Award, 1991; National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences, 1991; Dannie-Heineman Preis, 1993; The Harvey Prize, 1993; ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Chemical Instrumentation, 1995; The Bing Fellowship Award, 1996; California Scientist of the Year Award, 1997; ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry, 1998; E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy, 1999; Welch Award in Chemistry, 1999; Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, 2000; Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education, 2000; Charles Lathrop Parsons Award, 2001; Faraday Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2001; Laurance and Naomi Carpenter Hoagland Prize, 2003; Foreign member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden 2004; Foreign member Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing, P.R.C., 2004; James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, 2004; The ACS (New York Section) Nichols Medal, 2004, Wolf Prize in Chemistry, 2005; Chandler Medal, Columbia University, 2005; Pupin Medal, Columbia University, 2005; Oesper Award, University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Section of the ACS, 2006; Dudley R. Herschbach Award for Excellence in Research in the Field of Collision Dynamics, 2007; H. Julian Allen Award, NASA Ames Research Center, 2007; ACS George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, 2008; F.A. Cotton Medal by Texas A&M Dept. of Chemistry, 2008; ACS Priestley Medal, 2009; Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, 2009; Torbern Bergman Medal, 2012; World Academy of Sciences Lecture Medal, 2012; International Science and Technology Cooperation Award, China, 2013.
Chemistry Research Area: 

Principal Research Interests

Research Area: Physical and Analytical Chemistry

My research group is exploring a variety of topics that range from the basic understanding of chemical reaction dynamics to the nature of the chemical contents of single cells.

Under thermal conditions nature seems to hide the details of how elementary reactions occur through a series of averages over reagent velocity, internal energy, impact parameter, and orientation. To discover the effects of these variables on reactivity, it is necessary to carry out studies of chemical reactions far from equilibrium in which the states of the reactants are more sharply restricted and can be varied in a controlled manner. My research group is attempting to meet this tough experimental challenge through a number of laser techniques that prepare reactants in specific quantum states and probe the quantum state distributions of the resulting products. It is our belief that such state-to-state information gives the deepest insight into the forces that operate in the breaking of old bonds and the making of new ones.

Space does not permit a full description of these projects, and I earnestly invite correspondence. The following examples are representative:

The simplest of all neutral bimolecular reactions is the exchange reaction H H--> H2 H. We are studying this system and various isotopic cousins using a tunable UV laser pulse to photodissociate HBr (DBr) and hence create fast H (D) atoms of known translational energy in the presence of Hand/or Dand using a laser multiphoton ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer to detect the nascent molecular products in a quantum-state-specific manner by means of an imaging technique. It is expected that these product state distributions will provide a key test of the adequacy of various advanced theoretical schemes for modeling this reaction.

Analytical efforts involve the use of capillary zone electrophoresis, two-step laser desorption laser multiphoton ionization mass spectrometry, cavity ring-down spectroscopy, and Hadamard transform time-of-flight mass spectrometry. We believe these methods can revolutionize trace analysis, particularly of biomolecules in cells.

Representative Publications

1) "Vibrational Excitation Through Tug-of-War Inelastic Collisions," S.J. Greaves, E. Wrede, N.T. Goldberg, J. Zhang, D.J. Miller, and R.N. Zare, Nature,454, 88-91 (2008).

2) "Counting Low-Copy-Number Proteins in a Single Cell," B. Huang, H. Wu, D. Bhaya, A. Grossman, S. Granier, B.K. Kobilka, and R.N. Zare, Science315, 81-84 (2007).

3) "Reaction Products with Internal Energy beyond the Kinematic Limit Result from Trajectories Far from the Minimum Energy Path: an Example from H HBr -> H2 Br," A.E. Pomerantz, J.P. Camden, A.S. Chiou, F. Ausfelder, N. Chawla, W.L. Hase, and R.N. Zare, J. Am. Chem. Soc.127, 16368-16369 (2005).

4) "A Reinterpretation of the Mechanism of the Simplest Reaction at an sp3-Hybridized Carbon Atom: H CD4 -> CD3 HD," J.P. Camden, H.A. Bechtel, D.J.A. Brown, M.R. Martin, R.N. Zare, W.Hu, G.Lendvay, D.Troya, and G.C. Schatz,J. Am. Chem. Soc.127, 11898-11899 (2005).

5) "High-Precision Optical Measurements of 13C/12C Isotope Ratios in Organic Compounds at Natural Abundance," R.N. Zare, D.S. Kuramoto, C. Haase, S.M. Tan, E.R. Crosson, and N.M.R. Saad, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (US)106, 10928-10932 (2009).