1. What made you want to be a chemist?
When I was 10 I got the ingredients for gunpowder for Christmas after much pleading. I’ve always been fascinated by the magic of chemistry, whether it is exploding rockets or quantum mysteries. I would probably be locked away in Guantanamo nowadays for the things we did back then.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
Novelist/filmmaker. Our world seems rather finite to me some times, and the freedom to create new worlds and new characters is very appealing.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
In collaboration with Bob Field’s group at MIT we are developing a new instrument, inspired by the chirped-pulse microwave technique invented by Brooks Pate, that we hope will merge the fields of spectroscopy and dynamics and yield a very powerful new tool with which to study a broad range of chemical phenomena. We are grateful to NSF for generous support for this effort.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Jesus perhaps, I would like to be included in that famous painting.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
I was in the lab briefly yesterday with my students, although I was not running it myself. We are studying the photodissociation of ozone in the presence of a strong nonresonant laser field.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare and “Live Evil” by Miles Davis.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
Margaret Murnane at JILA. Although technically a laser physicist, her work is broad in scope and is having a profound impact on the understanding of electron dynamics in molecules at the shortest timescales.