Carl Lineberger has won the 2015 National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences. The award was given for his "development of molecular negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy, and the fundamental insights into molecular electron affinities and intramolecular dynamics derived therefrom." Lineberger is the E. U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Fellow of JILA. The award is presented with a medal and a $15,000 cash prize.
Lineberger developed negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy. Scientists can use this technique to determine the electron affinity of the neutral version of an atom or molecule. Electron affinity—the change in energy that occurs when an electron is added to an atom or molecule—provides important information about atoms and molecules and how they interact in chemical reactions. The "periodic table" of atomic electronic affinities now included in general chemistry textbooks is founded on Lineberger’s early work with negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy. His development of anion photoelectron spectroscopy as a tool to study small molecules has provided both an important method to characterize highly reactive, short-lived species known as free radicals as well as a new, direct way to observe the structure and evolution of molecules in the process of undergoing a chemical reaction. Lineberger’s experimental methods are now in widespread use in laboratories worldwide.
The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences was first awarded in 1979 to Linus Pauling for his studies, which elucidated in structural terms the properties of stable molecules of progressively higher significance to the chemical, geological, and biological sciences. The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences award has continued to recognize some of the greatest chemists in the past few decade as 14 recipients have been honored with a National Medal of Science, and six recipients have received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Taube 1983; Hoffmann 1981; Brown 1979; Cram 1987; Zewail 1999; Sharpless 2001).
The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences is presented annually to honor innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences was established in 1978 and supported by Occidental Petroleum Corporation from 1978 to 1996. The Merck Company Foundation assumed sponsorship in 1999.
Carl Lineberger joined fellow National Science Board members France Cordova (Chair of the Board, Smithsonian Institution) and Arnold Stancell (Vice President, Mobil Oil, ret.) on a whirlwind fact-finding tour of Antarctica November 26–30, 2012. The trio visited science and engineering facilities at the McMurdo and South Pole Stations, as well as field research sites in the Dry Valleys and historic huts on Ross Island.
The scientists were also were given an in-depth look at logistical support facilities at McMurdo and South Pole Stations, including base operations, water and power plants, weather, aircraft, and computing. Their charge was to identify ways for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance scientific research in Antarctica by increasing the effectiveness of logistical support while lowering its costs.
NSF is the U.S. custodian of the 1961 Antarctic treaty that provides that Antarctica shall only be used for peaceful purposes and prohibits the establishment of military bases and weapons testing. The original treaty was signed by Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States as a direct result of a successful scientific collaboration in Antarctica during the 1957–1958 International Geophysical Year. The treaty has subsequently been signed by 28 other nations. Since the treaty was signed, the United States has enforced its terms and provided logistical support for a majority of the research conducted in Antarctica.
Logistical support for Antarctic research and protection of the continent’s fragile environment are major U.S. commitments. “Antarctica is roughly the size of North America and is 99% covered in ice,” Lineberger says. “It’s the only place on Earth where there is no native human habitation. It’s a big job figuring out how to keep this environment pristine and ensure that there is no military or mineral exploitation of the continent.”
Lineberger notes that even in the pitch dark and bitterly cold winter (when temperatures fall as low as -129 °F), skeleton crews man the McMurdo and South Pole stations, which are regularly subjected to gale force winds that scream across the continent at top speeds of nearly 200 mph. In this rugged climate, there is only a single landing field for wheeled aircraft — at McMurdo Station. Summer visits to other parts of the continent, such as the South Pole or the Dry Valleys, require aircraft with skis or helicopters flown by pilots trained to assess whether ice conditions allow for safe landings.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the harsh conditions, research is flourishing in Antarctica. “The biology is very interesting because Antarctica was once part of the ancient continent of Gondwana,” Lineberger says. “Species that were once common are now evolving separately in Africa, South America, Central Europe, the Arabian peninsula, India, Australia, and Antarctica.” Lineberger added that conditions in Antarctica also offer excellent “seeing” for astronomers.
For Lineberger, one of the most fascinating regions was the Dry Valleys. These erosion-carved valleys originally sloped down to the sea in Gondwana. However, the breakup of Gondwana literally turned the valleys upside down, forming a precipitation shield that cut off rain and snow. Because the valleys receive almost no water, they’ve been preserved as they were 140 million years ago.
Current research in this region includes observations of penguin rookeries and studies of the internal structure and movement of glaciers, which flow like rivers through the valleys. The glacier study is a crucial for determining possible changes in the amount of frozen water in Antarctica. The continent’s ice pack comprises 90% of the ice found on land, or grounded ice. The melting of grounded ice makes major contributions to sea level rise in global warming scenarios.
The same day they visited research sites in the Dry Valleys, Lineberger and his colleagues were able to see historic huts, including the Shackleton hut built by explorer Ernest Shackleton and his expedition in 1908. Shackleton’s crew reached the South Magnetic Pole and came within a hundred miles of reaching the Geographic South Pole. The hut they built was subsequently used by expeditions in 1911–1912 and in 1915–1916.
In addition to an overview of early Antarctic explorations, Lineberger was able to spend a day learning about the scientific research and operations support facilities at the McMurdo station. After gathering important information about the cost and complexity of logistical support for Antarctic missions, he and his colleagues headed back to Christchurch, New Zealand and, from there, back home. The consensus was they’d learned a tremendous amount about Antarctic research and logistical support over five very intense and busy days. — Julie Phillips
The U.S. Senate confirmed JILA Fellow Carl Lineberger on August 2 as a member of the National Science Board. He was nominated for the position by President Barack Obama in April. As a member of the National Science Board, Lineberger's duties will include helping to establish the policies of the National Science Foundation. The National Science Board also serves as an advisory board to the president and Congress on issues involving science and engineering.
"Colorado is home to some of the best and the brightest in the country, supporting and inspiring top-notch scientific work across Colorado and the country," U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said in a statement. "Carl has contributed decades of pioneering research to the fields of physics and chemistry."
Lineberger is the E.U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at CU-Boulder. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently serves on the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council and the NRC Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space. His former graduate students and postdoctoral associates hold major research-related positions throughout the world.
Lineberger has chaired the National Science Foundation Advisory Committees on Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Science and Technology Centers, the U.S. Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, and the NAS/NRC Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Applications. He recently completed service on the National Academy of Sciences Council, the NAS/NRC Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy and the NRC Governing Board.
"It is truly an honor for us when our nation's leadership taps the knowledge and expertise of CU-Boulder faculty to serve our country and society," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. "Distinguished Professor Lineberger is the third faculty member in three years to receive a prestigious White House appointment, which underscores our national reach in scientific research and public policy."
Last September, CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor and JILA Fellow Carl Wieman was confirmed as associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy .
For more information about the members of the National Science Board visit www.nsf.gov/nsb/members/.
On April 7, 2011, the White House announced that President Obama intends to nominate JILA Fellow W. Carl Lineberger to the National Science Board, National Science Foundation, one of the nation's most important science policy organizations. The board sets policy for the National Science Foundation and serves as a key advisory organization to the President and Congress on science, engineering, and education. Lineberger’s nomination will take place soon. He will then be considered for confirmation by the U. S. Senate.
"Dr. Lineberger's willingness to take on this challenge is a great opportunity for science in the United States," said Thomas O'Brian, chief of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) Quantum Physics Division. "In addition to Lineberger’s remarkable scientific career, he has a long and highly effective history of leading and serving on national science policy organizations."
Lineberger is the E.U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB) and a Fellow of JILA, a joint institute of UCB and NIST. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He serves on the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC), and the NRC Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space. In the past, Dr. Lineberger has chaired the National Science Foundation Advisory Committees on Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Science and Technology Centers, the DOE Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, and the NAS/NRC Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications. He recently completed service on the National Academy of Sciences Council, the NAS/NRC Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, and the NRC Governing Board. Dr. Lineberger earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology.