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Chemist Bernath Wins International Award

Peter Bernath, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Old Dominion University, has been named the winner of the inaugural Benedict Spectroscopy Award, which was established by Elsevier Publishing Co. under the auspices of the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer (JQSRT).

Bernath was nominated for the award "as a highly respected scientist ... who has made milestone impacts on spectroscopy research and its applications." The editors of JQSRT cited Bernath for "landmark individual achievements in this field" in selecting him as the award winner.

The Benedict Spectroscopy Award was introduced this year by Elsevier in honor of William S. Benedict, an internationally known scientist acclaimed for his fundamental contributions delineating the mechanism of the water-vapor laser, his early work on molecular line shapes, and his discovery of hydrogen chloride in the atmosphere of Venus. Benedict, who died in 1980, also had a seminal impact on the establishment of the HITRAN molecular spectroscopic database that is widely used today.

The award, which is for lifetime achievement, will be given every two years. Bernath will receive his award at the 22nd International Conference on High Resolution Molecular Spectroscopy next month in Prague, Czech Republic.

Earlier this year, Bernath received the Faculty of Science Distinguished Alumni Award of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. That award is bestowed upon Waterloo alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions in the areas of professional or academic achievement and contributions to community and public service. Bernath received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Waterloo in 1976.

"Dr. Bernath is an internationally recognized leader and scholar in molecular spectroscopy and atmospheric chemistry," said Chris Platsoucas, dean of the College of Sciences. "He is very much respected and highly regarded by his peers for his accomplishments, which are at the highest level in his field."

Bernath joined ODU last summer as professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry.

His research has helped us know more about greenhouse gases and molecules of astrophysical importance. He came to ODU from the University of York in England, where he was chair of physical chemistry and director of the York Center of Laser Spectroscopy.

A Fellow of the Optical Society of America, Bernath was the lead scientist for the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE), a Canadian satellite mission that was launched in 2003 and has turned up important information about ozone chemistry, climate change and air quality. He took on that project while he was professor of chemistry (with a cross appointment in physics) at Waterloo.

Bernath also received the 2009 Alouette Award of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and the 2004 Excellence in Research Award from the University of Waterloo.

His Ph.D. in chemistry is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he served as assistant professor and associate professor at the University of Arizona before taking faculty positions at Waterloo in 1991 and York in 2006.

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