Robert W. Field

Robert Field was born June 13, 1944 in Wilmington, Delaware, the first of two children of Kay and Edmund Field. He attended Amherst College where he majored in Chemistry (A. B. Magna cum laude, 1965, Doctor of Science honoris causas 1997). He obtained his graduate education at Harvard University where, supervised by William A. Klemperer, he gained his initial experience with multiple resonance spectroscopies and spectroscopic perturbations (Ph. D. and M. A., 1972). As a postdoc with Professors H.P. Broida and D.O. Harris at UCSB (1971-1974), he performed the first microwave-optical and optical-optical double resonance studies of diatomic molecules using tunable lasers and showed that spectroscopic perturbations can provide global insights into the electronic structure of the alkaline earth monoxides.

Upon joining the MIT Chemistry faculty in 1974 (Assistant Professor 1974-1978, Associate Professor 1978-1982, Professor 1982-1999, Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry 1999-present) he continued to develop new laser spectroscopic techniques including cw optically pumped molecular electronic lasers, modulated gain spectroscopy, and Stimulated Emission Pumping (SEP). His interest in spectroscopic perturbations led him to show that molecular electronic structure and dynamics can often be represented by a simple electrostatic perturbation of free-atomic-ion structures (ligand field theory). While collaborating with Professors James L. Kinsey and Robert J. Silbey, he applied SEP to the study of highly excited vibrational levels of polyatomic molecules and obtained the first experimental evidence for quantum manifestations of classical chaos in an isolated molecule.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (1981), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1998), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002), the Optical Society of America (1994) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (2009). He has been awarded the Herbert P. Broida Prize in 1980, the Earle K. Plyler Prize in 1988, the Ellis Lippincott Award in 1990, the William F. Meggers Award in 1996, the Bomem-Michelson Award in 2006, and the Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science in 2009. In addition, the 1990 Nobel Laureate Signature Award of the American Chemical Society cites Dr. Yongqin Chen and his co-preceptors (Professors Field and Kinsey) for SEP studies of acetylene.

His current research interests include: the development of advanced pattern recognition techniques to extract dynamical information (isomerization, intramolecular proton transfer, energy flow, and fluxional behavior) from highly excited vibrational spectra of polyatomic molecules; spectroscopic characterization of triplet states of small polyatomic molecules, especially the doorway-mediated mechanism of Intersystem Crossing; and the mechanisms of energy exchange between electronic and nuclear degrees of freedom, through the spectroscopic study of core-nonpenetrating Rydberg states of diatomic molecules. Robert Field has co-authored two monographs: Perturbations in the Spectra of Diatomic Molecules (1986) and The Spectra and Dynamics of Diatomic Molecules (2004), and has co-edited monographs entitled Molecular Dynamics and Spectroscopy by Stimulated Emission Pumping (1995) and Nonlinear Spectroscopy for Molecular Structure Determination (1998). He has served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy (1976-present), Journal of Physical Chemistry (1980-84), Journal of Chemical Physics (1986-1988), Chemical Physics Letters (1993-1995), and Annual Review of Physical Chemistry (1994-1999).


June 13, 1944, Wilmington, Delaware


Amherst College (1965, Magna Cum Laude)

Ph.D., M.A.

Harvard University (1971) with Professor William Klemperer 


Quantum Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara with Professors H. P. Broida and D.O. Harris (1971-1974)

Microwave Optical Double Resonance, Tunable Laser Spectroscopy, Optical-Optical Double Resonance, Analysis of Perturbations, Mechanisms of Chemiluminescent Reactions 

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1974-1978).

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1978-1982)

Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1982-1999)

Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999 - Present)

Committees and Honors

Editorial Advisory Boards, Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy (1976-present), Journal of Physical Chemistry (1980-1984), Journal of Chemical Physics (1986-1988), Chemical Physics Letters (1993-1995), Ann. Rev. Phys. Chem. (1994-96).

H. P. Broida Prize Committee (1981), Earle K. Plyler Prize Committee (1983-1985, 1989); Meggers Prize Committee (1990), Rao Prize Committee (1991-1992), Schawlow Prize Committee (1992-1993), E.O. Lawrence Award Committee (1993). 

Executive Committee, Division of Chemical Physics, American Physical Society (1980-1983). Counselor, Division of Physical Chemistry, American Chemical Society (1986-1987). Chairman, International Advisory Committee, Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy, Ohio State University (1993-94). 

Alfred P. Sloan Fellow (1975-1977).

H. P. Broida Prize in Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy or Chemical Physics, American Physical Society (1980). 

Earle K. Plyler Prize in Molecular Spectroscopy, American Physical Society (1988). 

Nobel Laureate Signature Award, American Chemical Society, Co-Preceptor (with J. L. Kinsey) of Dr. Yongqin Chen (1990).

Ellis Lippincott Award, Optical Society of America (1990).

Fellow, American Physical Society (1981 - Present).

Fellow, Optical Society of America (1994 - Present).

William F. Meggers Award in Spectroscopy, Opical Society of America (1996).

Doctor of Science (honoris causas), Amherst College (1997).

Fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1998 - Present).

Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002 - Present).

Coblentz Society's Bomem-Michelson Award (2006).

Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, American Physical Society (2009)

Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (2009 - present)

Humboldt Research Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2011)

Current research interests include laser spectroscopy, semi-empirical models of molecular electronic structure, Intramolecular Vibrational Redistribution, spectroscopic perturbations, advanced pattern recognition methods for spectroscopic characterization of large amplitude vibrational motions. Experiments utilize multiple resonance techniques based on cw and/or pulsed tunable lasers: Optical-Optical Double Resonance, Stimulated Emission Pumping, Modulated Gain Spectroscopy, Wavelength Selected Fluorescence Excitation Spectroscopy, Stark and Zeeman Quantum Beat Spectroscopy, Sideband Optical-Optical Double Resonance Zeeman Spectroscopy, Transient Gain and Transient Absorption Spectroscopy, Magnetic Rotation Spectroscopy, Frequency Modulation Spectroscopy, Time-Resolved Fourier Transform Spectroscopy, femtosecond pump/probe spectroscopy, Millimeter Wave Optical Polarization Spectroscopy, Chirped Pulse Millimeter Wave Spectroscopy, Photofragment Fluorescence Excitation Spectroscopy, Surface Electron Ejection by Laser Excited Metastables.



H. Lefebvre-Brion and R.W. Field, BOOK: The Spectra and Dynamics of Diatomic Molecules, 766 p., Elsevier Press, 2004.

R. W. Field, “Assignment of the Lowest 3Π and 1Π States of CaO, SrO, and BaO”, J. Chem. Phys. 60, 2400-2413 (1974).

C. Kittrell, E. Abramson, J. L. Kinsey, S. McDonald, D. E. Reisner, D. Katayama, and R. W. Field, “Selective Vibrational Excitation by Stimulated Emission Pumping”, J. Chem. Phys. 75, 2056-2059 (1981).

R. W. Field, “Diatomic Molecule Electronic Structure beyond Simple Molecular Constants”, Berichte der Bunsengesellschaft für Physikalische Chemie 86, 771-779 (1982).

D. G. Imre, J. L. Kinsey, R. W. Field, and D. H. Katayama, “Spectroscopic Characterization of Repulsive Potential Energy Surfaces: Fluorescence Spectrum of Ozone”, J. Phys. Chem. 86, 2564-2566 (1982).

E. Abramson, R. W. Field, D. Imre, K. K. Innes, and J. L. Kinsey, “Stimulated Emission Pumping of Acetylene: Evidence for Quantum Chaotic Behavior near 27,900 cm−1 of Excitation?” J. Chem. Phys. 80, 2298-2300 (1984).

S. F. Rice, H. Martin, and R. W. Field, “The Electronic Structure of the Calcium Monohalides. A Ligand Field Approach”, J. Chem. Phys. 82, 5023-5034 (1985).

F. Temps, S. Halle, P. H. Vaccaro, R. W. Field, and J. L. Kinsey, “Vibrationally Excited Formaldehyde: The Relationship between Vibrational Structure and Collisional Properties,” Faraday Discussion on Molecular Vibrations, 1987, J. Chem. Soc. Faraday Trans. 2, 84, 1457-1482 (1988).

D. M. Jonas, S. A. B. Solina, B. Rajaram, S.J. Cohen, R. J. Silbey, R. W. Field, K. Yamanouchi, and S. Tsuchiya, “Intramolecular Vibrational Relaxation in the SEP Spectrum of Acetylene,” J. Chem. Phys. 99, 7350-7370 (1993).

D. J. Nesbitt and R. W. Field, “Vibrational Energy Flow in Highly Excited Molecules: Role of Intramolecular Vibrational Redistribution,” J. Phys. Chem. 100, 12,735-12,756 (1996).

M. P. Jacobson, S. L. Coy, and R. W. Field, “Extended Cross Correlation: A Technique for Spectroscopic Pattern Recognition,” J. Chem. Phys. 107, 8349-8356 (1997).

H. Ishikawa, R. W. Field, S. C. Farantos, M. Joyeux, J. Koput, C. Beck, and R. Schinke, “HCP↔CPH Isomerization: Caught in the Act!,” Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 50, 443-484 (1999).

M.P. Jacobson, C. Jung, H.S. Taylor, and R.W. Field, “State-by-State Assignment of the Bending Spectrum of Acetylene at 15,000 cm−1: A Case Study of Quantum-Classical Correspondence,” J. Chem. Phys. 111, 600-618 (1999).

M. P. Jacobson and R. W. Field, “Acetylene at the Threshold of Isomerization,” J. Phys. Chem. (feature article) 104, 3073-3086 (2000).

R. W. Field, C. M. Gittins, N. A. Harris, and Ch. Jungen, “Quantum Defect Theory of Dipole and Vibronic Mixing in Rydberg States of CaF”, J. Chem. Phys. 122, 184314,1-10 (2005)

B. M. Wong, A. H. Steeves, and R. W. Field, “Electronic Signatures of Large Amplitude Motions: Dipole Moments of Vibrationally Excited Local-Bend and Local-Stretch States of S0 Acetylene,” J. Phys. Chem. B 110, 18,912-18,920 (2006).

H. A. Bechtel, A. H. Steeves, B. M. Wong, and R. W. Field, “Evolution of Chemical Bonding HCN↔HNC Isomerization as Revealed Through Nuclear Quadrupole Hyperfine Structure,” Angewandte Chemie 47, 2969-2972 (2008).

J. J. Kay, S. L. Coy, V. S. Petrovic, B. M. Wong, and R. W. Field, “Separation of Long-Range and Short-Range Interactions in Rydberg States of Diatomic Molecules,” J. Chem. Phys. 128, 194301/1-20, (2008).

M. de Groot, R. W. Field, and W. J. Buma, “Interference in Acetylene Intersystem Crossing Acts as the Molecular Analog of Young’s Double-Slit Experiment,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 5, 1-5 (2009).