June 30, 2000

Berkeley Lab Science Beat

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Berkeley Lab Director Charles Shank has appointed Daniel M. Neumark director of the Chemical Sciences Division (CSD). Neumark succeeds C. Bradley Moore, who is leaving to take a new post at Ohio State University.

"I welcome Dr. Neumark's creativity and enthusiasm in leading the Chemical Sciences Division," said Shank, noting that "the background, talent, and skills of Dr. Neumark are particularly well suited to this assignment." In announcing the appointment Shank also expressed his appreciation "for the dynamic leadership of Dr. Moore.

Neumark, 45, is a faculty senior scientist at Berkeley Lab and a professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Harvard in 1977, spent a year at Cambridge University, then in 1984 obtained his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from U.C. Berkeley, where he has stayed ever since except for a two-year stint as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado.

Neumark grew up in Chicago and remembers being attracted to science as a child but only choosing to make a career of chemistry after being inspired by high school teacher Frank Cardulla, who recently won the American Chemical Society's James Bryant Conant Award as the best high school chemistry teacher in the country. Cardulla was a good model; Neumark has gone on to receive numerous scientific awards and fellowships, including the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in recognition of his own educational contributions.

At Harvard Neumark studied under Dudley Herschbach, and at Berkeley his advisor was Yuan T. Lee -- two pioneers of research with crossed molecular beams who, with John Polanyi, shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for their work in chemical reaction dynamics. "From them I really caught the crossed molecular beam bug," Neumark says.

A physical chemist whose research is concentrated on molecular structure and dynamics, Neumark is well known for his experimental studies using negative-ion photoelectron spectroscopy to probe the transition state in chemical reactions.

"In chemical reactions atoms collide, rattle around, and fall apart on a femtosecond time scale," he explains. "We start with negative ions as a precursor to the transition state. Because they are charged we can select their size with precision."

With related techniques Neumark has also studied the electronic and vibrational states of small clusters of atoms, including commercially important semiconductors, and has investigated the dynamics of both negative ions and clusters on the femtosecond time scale.

His research into the dissociation of free radicals has been important to the Department of Energy's program to study the fundamentals of combustion. At the Advanced Light Source and in his own laboratories, Neumark has used crossed molecular beams to study hydrocarbons that play a vital role in combustion and interstellar chemistry.

Among his first priorities as new director of Berkeley Lab's CSD, Neumark plans to "get a grip on all the varied sciences in the division" in order to effectively represent the division's programs in Washington. With some two dozen scientists and staff, over half of them with joint appointments at the university, the division represents a very wide range of interests and approaches to chemistry, from theory to application.

Neumark says an immediate problem is that "we are faced with the loss of good people" like Brad Moore, "and one of my priorities is to make constructive use of these losses" by seeking replacements who can best contribute to the division.

Beamline 9.0.2 at the ALS represents a unique opportunity and challenge for the CSD. "Physical chemists like to stay in their labs and play with their lasers," Neumark says with a smile. "Our job is to convince people to use this marvelous tool." To this end, Neumark welcomes the arrival of Tom Baer from the University of North Carolina as beamline director.

The beamline's three endstations are tailored for investigations of chemical dynamics and "open possibilities for investigation that didn't exist five years ago," says Neumark. "They make it possible to do experiments here that can't be done anywhere else."

"Chemistry's tradition at Berkeley Lab goes back to the beginning, and it's wonderful to be part of an established program. It will take effort to maintain that tradition," says Neumark, "but maintenance is not enough -- we have to build on it as well."