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Internationally Recognized Physical Chemist Joins Faculty

Professor Arthur Suits, a St. Louis native, returns to the University of Missouri with an international team of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows

April 13th, 2016

Story Contact: Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346, sossamonj@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri continues to build its global reputation in research and teaching by hiring high-impact faculty, thereby raising its profile as a public land-grant research institution and member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). This semester, Professor Arthur Suits and his team joined MU’s Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Science. Basic research conducted in his lab will have implications for understanding atmospheric chemistry, astrochemistry, and the study of combustion, which is useful in making cleaner and more efficient engines and energy use.

“I am pleased to be returning to my home state and my alma mater where cutting-edge research is conducted each and every day,” Suits said. “In my lab we are interested in the properties and reaction dynamics of molecules in various states and their interactions and relay that information to theorists and modelers to obtain a comprehensive view of chemistry relevant to a given problem. The work we do is focused on studying simple chemistry at the complete level of detail that quantum physics allows. In effect, we want to make movies of precisely what happens when two molecules react, and we use lasers and molecular beams to achieve this.”

Suits’ team of international graduate students and postdoctoral fellows includes four members from Sri Lanka, one from China, one from Ghana and a recent addition from Iran. Together, they are assembling the equipment — developed by the team — that includes a chirped-pulse microwave uniform flow spectrometer, the only one of its kind in the world. Using the equipment, the team studies how molecules collide with one another and the resulting chemical reactions as well as how much energy is released. Suits says that the techniques they use might be a more difficult way to do chemistry, but the team is producing details and insights scientists cannot obtain in other ways.

Suits earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from MU in 1987 and doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University before becoming a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California. He also served as a scientist in the Department of Chemistry at Brookhaven National Laboratory and was a chemistry professor at Wayne State University for 12 years before accepting the position at MU late last year.

“Dr. Suits has a proven track record and is making great strides in addressing fundamental questions that are important to researchers and scientists,” said Jerry L. Atwood, Curators Professor and chair of MU’s chemistry department. “His innovative work in the field of experimental chemical physics and the advances he has made in ion imaging methods not only inform the field, but the discoveries he continues to make will have broad-ranging implications for a whole host of fields.”

“We are excited to welcome one of the world’s top physical chemists to our chemistry department,” said Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “We’ve been working hard to boost our standing in the AAU, and hiring a scientist of Dr. Suits’ caliber will bolster those efforts and help attract other world-class researchers to MU.”

Suits is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He has published more than 180 peer-reviewed articles including six articles in Science and has been cited more than 5,000 times.

Editor’s Note: For more on the story, please see: “Chemist Comes Home.”

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