Robert Field is the Robert T. Haslam and Bradley Dewey Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a spectroscopist, specializing in the structure and dynamics of small molecules in the gas phase. He is known for his studies of spectroscopic perturbations and development of multiple resonance methods for the study of molecules at high excitation, where the standard energy level patterns and transition selection rules are shattered beyond recognition. His research has been a quest to discover and exploit the novel patterns that encode unimolecular isomerization and the mechanisms for energy and angular momentum exchange between an electron and nuclei. Field was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1944 and grew up in Chicago, where he attended the University of Chicago Laboratory School. He graduated from Amherst College in 1965 and received his doctorate in Physical Chemistry (William Klemperer research group) from Harvard University in 1972. After three years of postdoctoral research in the Quantum Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara (H. P. Broida and David O. Harris research groups), he joined the Chemistry faculty at MIT in 1974, where he continues to the present.

Research Interests

Field describes his research as spectroscopy beyond molecular constants. He views producing archival tables of molecular constants as a necessary evil on the path toward insights into fundamental intramolecular interaction mechanisms, detecting the emergence of "isomerization-eigenstates" that embody large amplitude vibrational motions, and gaining spectroscopic access to barrier-proximal eigenstates that provide maps of chemically interesting regions of a potential energy surface. The existence of such eigenstates will facilitate rationally designed external control schemes for non-ergodic dynamics. It might seem impossible that a light electron could exchange energy with heavy nuclei, yet the study of molecular Rydberg states can reveal the strengths and quantum number scaling rules for each of the important electron to ion-core energy exchange mechanisms. Revolutionary techniques, such as chirped pulse microwave spectroscopy and buffer-gas-cooled ablation sources enable spectroscopists to answer questions about localized intramolecular interactions, the coexistence of large amplitude motion eigenstates with predominantly ergodic eigenstates, and creation of all-spectra, all-dynamics causal models based on Multichannel Quantum Defect Theory. Field's co-authored book, The Spectra and Dynamics of Diatomic Molecules, provides a unified treatment of the concepts and techniques of frequency- and time-domain spectra suggests how these may be extended beyond diatomic molecules.

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Primary Section

Section 14: Chemistry

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics