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Professor Veronica Bierbaum

104th Distinguished Research Lecture 2012

Professor Veronica Bierbaum

"Astrochemistry: From the Laboratory to the Stars"
Watch a video of the 2012 Distinguished Research Lecture
CU-Boulder Campus, Chemistry Building 140 
Boulder, Colorado
5:30 p.m. Thursday, August 30, 2012 

How do scientists understand the composition of the cosmos, especially in regions distant from earth?  This lecture will discuss how spectroscopy and kinetics, two fundamental branches of chemistry, allow scientists to probe the identities of molecules throughout space and understand their mechanisms of formation and destruction.  Demonstrations will be shown to illustrate basic concepts of the absorption and emission of light (spectroscopy) and of the principles of chemical reactivity (kinetics).  The development of powerful and versatile laboratory instrumentation will be described, which enables unique experiments to explore the chemistry of novel interstellar species.

Professor Veronica Bierbaum

Dr. Veronica Bierbaum came to the University of Colorado Boulder in 1974, immediately after receiving her PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. As a Post-doctoral Fellow, Senior Research Associate, and Research Professor, she enjoyed many years of collaboration with Professor Charles DePuy until his retirement in 1992. She is now a Full Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a member of JILA and CASA.

Dr. Bierbaum’s research focuses on a fundamental understanding of the structure and reactivity of a wide array of gas phase molecules and ions. She and her research group have explored the kinetics, mechanisms, and thermodynamics of systems that are relevant to combustion chemistry, atmospheric processes, environmental science, biomedical research, interstellar chemistry, and high energy density materials, among other areas. Her research, funded by NSF, AFOSR, NASA, and NIH, has resulted in 200 peer-reviewed publications. She has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has received the CU-Boulder College Scholars Award.

Dr. Bierbaum has been devoted to chemical education at all levels, and has mentored many graduate students, undergraduates, and post-doctoral fellows. She has been an active participant in educational innovation at the University of Colorado Boulder and, with Dr. Margaret Asirvatham, she served as co-investigator of the NSF grant “Partners in Science Education;” she is committed to instruction and improvement of large lecture classes at CU-Boulder and to the recruitment and mentoring of underrepresented groups.

Dr. Bierbaum has served in leadership roles for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and for the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and a member of the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry. She has been a member of the Scientific Review Committee for the Boulder Valley School District for many years and an enthusiastic contributor to the CU-Boulder Wizards Program.

Dr. Bierbaum is grateful to her family, students, collaborators, and co-workers who continue to make her “journey” an especially enjoyable adventure.

For more information on astrochemistry at CU-Boulder:

What others have said about Dr. Veronica Bierbaum:

“Professor Bierbaum is renowned both nationally and internationally for her pioneering and important work in the field of gas-phase ion-molecule reactions. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to write that her work in this field is not matched anywhere else in the world.” 
Professor Eric Herbst, Commonwealth Professor of Chemistry, Astronomy and Physics, University of Virginia


“Professor Bierbaum is a master at determining the most valuable pathways to explore and the ways to go about understanding them. In addition, she elucidates and writes about profound subjects in which ion chemistry has great impact.” 
Professor Stephen Leone, Professor of Chemistry and Physics, University of California, Berkeley, John R. Thomas Endowed Chair in Physical Chemistry


 “[She is] in the more rarified atmosphere of world leader and innovator in her discipline—the basic physics and chemistry of organic ions. In her sub-discipline of ion reactivity I would go further and rank her number one worldwide, a distinction that I feel is widely shared in the research community. She has contributed seminal work in such disparate fields as physical organic chemistry, ion collision and reaction dynamics and ion origins and reactivity in the interstellar media.” 
Professor Michael Bowers, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara


“One measure of the importance and power of Dr. Bierbaum’s work is to look at her collaborations. It is clear from the quality of the work as well as colleagues both at Colorado and elsewhere that she can do things that some very expert people cannot do alone. She works superbly with these people, and the science that she has enabled is very important.” 
Professor John Brauman, J.G. Jackson-C.J. Wood Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Stanford University


“The experimental approach Dr. Veronica Bierbaum has developed employs an instrument invented in Boulder, the flowing afterglow-selected ion flow tube (FA-SIFT) technique, which has allowed unique insight into a wide variety of fundamental and applied chemical problems. … Dr. Bierbaum has accordingly been able to play a key role in a number of scientific problems and has contributed to the unique role that science in Boulder has in the field.” 
Professor W. Carl Lineberger, E.U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Fellow of JILA; and Veronica Vaida, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Fellow of CIRES


“Her work has involved many reactions of great interest to the organic chemistry community, studies of ions of substantial theoretical interest, thermochemistry involving important bond energies, and ions in interstellar space. These contributions have changed the way we think about many of these problems and have had a major impact.”
Professor John Brauman, J.G. Jackson-C.J. Wood Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Stanford University


“During all these times, I have continuously been impressed with her intelligence, persistence, interaction with students, and foresight in recognizing productive research problems and their solutions.” 
Professor Theodore Snow, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy


“Her abilities to intertwine and achieve excellence in both teaching and research activities are exquisite.” 
Professor Stephen Leone, Professor of Chemistry and Physics, University of California, Berkeley, John R. Thomas Endowed Chair in Physical Chemistry


From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012
From the reception for the Distinguished Research Lecture, August 30, 2012

Members of Dr. Veronica Bierbaum's research group
Members of Dr. Veronica Bierbaum's research group (from left to right): Callie Cole, Ditte Thomsen, Dr. Zhibo Yang, and Charles Nichols study a newly recorded mass spectrum.

Dr. Nadine Wehres
Dr. Nadine Wehres, who joined the lab in 2011 after receiving her PhD from the University of Groningen, tunes a laser employed for acoustic desorption of non-volatile compounds.

Ditte Thomsen
Ditte Thomsen, a graduate student visiting from the University of Copenhagen, fills a dewar with liquid nitrogen, which will be used to purify helium buffer gas for her experiments.

Nick Demarais
Nick Demarais, a third year graduate student, tunes the mass spectrometer to select a specific reactant ion for interstellar reactions.

Callie Cole
Callie Cole, a second year graduate student, adjusts the electronics to maximize ion signal for her studies of astrochemistry.

Dr. Zhibo Yang, Callie Cole and Charles Nichols
Dr. Zhibo Yang, a post-doctoral research associate; Callie Cole, a second year graduate student; and Charles Nichols, also a second year graduate student, take a break from their work in the lab.

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