Munira Khalil, Chair, Chemistry, University of Washington "Measuring and Decoding Spectra to Study Ultrafast Chemical Processes" (My Adventures in Optimizing the Signal-to-Noise Ratio .....
In this talk I will describe how my research group at the University of Washington
uses femtosecond spectroscopy to understand chemical processes. Why should we
think about chemistry on the timescale of a femtosecond (one millionth of one
billionth of a second)? The absorption of light by chemical and biochemical
reagents results in a complex dance among the electrons and atoms of the system
under study. Seeing and predicting the motions of atoms and molecules following
photoexcitation is key to comprehending the elementary steps in photosynthesis,
DNA photodamage, and artificial light harvesting technologies. I will discuss
examples from my group’s research where we have developed new techniques and
used femtosecond light pulses from the infrared to X-ray wavelengths to capture
ultrafast chemical processes. The talk will emphasize the joys and challenges of
optimizing the signal-to-noise ratio in life inside and outside the laboratory.