2015 Beckman Symposium   

Richard N. Zare, PhD

Presentation Date:

Richard N. Zare, PhD

Laser-Induced Fluorescence: My Life with LIF

Stanford University



My story begins with the birth of the laser and concludes with a description of some of the myriad of applications of laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) to chemical analysis. I want to describe what led me to make the first experiments in LIF and how this work progressed from applications in the gas-phase to those in liquids and solids, including its uses in  single- molecule detection, fluorescence-assisted cell sorting, and sequencing the human genome.


Shown here is a photograph of laser induced fluorescence of iodine vapor taken by Fritz Goro and the author in the author’s laboratory at Columbia University, 1977.  A green laser beam enters an evacuated glass cell containing iodine vapor, causing a yellow streak of fluorescence to appear.  Below the glass cell, the light from the yellow fluorescence streak strikes a reflective diffraction grating where it is dispersed into its different colors, each corresponding to a particular molecular transition from the pumped vibrational-rotational state of the excited I2 molecule to one of the vibrational-rotational levels of the I2 molecule in its ground electronic state. This figure is reproduced from R. N. Zare, Annu. Rev. Anal. Chem. 5, 1–14 ( 2012).


Richard N Zare, PhD is the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, Department of Chemistry

Professor of Physics (Courtesy), Department of Physics

Stanford University (1977- ), Chair, Department of Chemistry (2006-2011). Chair, National Science Board (1995-1997). Chair, President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science (1997-2000).  Awards: National Medal of Science (1983); Welch Award in Chemistry (1999); Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2005); Priestley Medal of the American Chemical Society (2010); BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Basic Sciences (2010); King Faisal International Prize in Science (2011). Member: American Academy of Sciences (1976); National Academy of Sciences (1976); American Philosophical  Society (1991); The Royal Society (London) (1999); Chinese Academy of Sciences (2004); Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences (2004); Indian Academy of Sciences (2008); The World Academy of Sciences TWAS (2009). Harvard University—B.A., 1961. Chemistry and Physics Harvard University—Ph.D., 1964, Chemical Physics

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