University of Rochester

Research Earns Humboldt Award for Shaul Mukamel

October 3, 1997

Shaul Mukamel, professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester, has received a 1997 Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his lifelong research contributions. Mukamel is one of approximately 80 American scientists to win the award this year.

Mukamel, a member of the Rochester faculty since 1982, was nominated for the honor by Professor Eward Schlag of the Technical University of Munich. The award will enable Mukamel to conduct a year of research in Munich with Schlag and other European colleagues.

Throughout his career, Mukamel has developed novel ways to observe and interpret molecular dynamics. His research focuses on how to use the briefest of laser pulses to shed light on activities such as the making and breaking of chemical bonds. These ultrafast bursts of light -- somewhat akin to molecular snapshots taken with a shutter speed of one millionth of a billionth of a second -- offer rare insights into the stream of minute forces that continually buffet all molecules. Mukamel frequently focuses his research on materials like polymers and semiconductors, which are important to the electronics and imaging industries.

Mukamel's work also delves into biochemistry, examining how biological systems harvest light during photosynthesis and then convert that light into the chemical energy that makes life possible.

Mukamel, who earned his Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University in 1976, held posts at MIT, Berkeley, Rice University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel before joining the Rochester faculty. He has served as a visiting faculty member at the University of Paris, the University of Tokyo, Berkeley, and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. A fellow of both the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America, Mukamel has also received Guggenheim and Sloan fellowships and a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

Mukamel's book, Principles of Nonlinear Optical Spectroscopy, is widely used as that field's standard text; Mukamel also serves on the editorial board of the journal Chemical Physics Letters. Closer to home, he is a member of the University's Council on Graduate Studies and its College Faculty Council.

The Humboldt Research Award is sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Bonn, which works to foster international cooperation with top German scientists. Founded in 1972 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the American-led Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, it now ranks among Germany's most prestigious academic honors, often leading to meetings with the German president.