Molina, Mario
Physical Chemistry: Gas Phase Chemical Kinetics and Photochemistry; Chemistry of Atmospheric Aerosols; Air Pollution in Megacities of the Developing World

Contact Information
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Office: 3050E
Phone: 858-534-1696
Group: View group members
1972 Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
1965 B.S., Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Awards and Academic Honors
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Research Interests
Our research group is concerned with the chemistry of the atmosphere and with the various ways in which human society can affect it. Our goal is to understand at a fundamental level the key atmospheric chemical processes that have important consequences, so that we can make reliable predictions of future changes. Our research involves laboratory studies of atmospheric chemical processes. We are also exploring science-policy issues related to urban and regional air pollution and to global change.

Gas Phase Chemical Kinetics and Photochemistry

We employ flow-tube techniques to measure elementary reaction rate constants and photochemical parameters. We monitor directly the concentrations of reactants and products, including transients, using chemical ionization mass spectrometry, laser-induced or vacuum-UV resonance fluorescence, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, etc. The reactions under study involve species such as ClO , OH , HO 2 , SO 3 , etc.

Chemistry of Atmospheric Aerosols

We are studying the chemistry and the microphysics of a variety of atmospheric aerosols. We are investigating tropospheric processes involving organic and marine aerosols. We are developing new techniques to study chemical processes occurring on particle surfaces using tools such as mass spectrometry, Fourier-transform infrared and Raman spectroscopy. We are pursuing a systematic program to elucidate the nature and the mechanism of these reactions at a molecular level. In addition, we employ techniques such as differential scanning calorimetry and optical microscopy to investigate nucleation probabilities and to elucidate the mechanism of formation of cloud particles and of their interaction with anthropogenic aerosols.

Air Pollution in Megacities of the Developing World

We are developing methods to conduct integrated assessments of complex environmental problems facing major cities, particularly in the developing the world, in collaboration with the Mari Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment, located in Mexico City. These assessments bring economic, risk, and policy analysis into play along with the scientific research and data that serve as the underpinnings of policy formation. The approach is dynamic, iterative, and educational, and aimed at improving both the process and the institutional capacity for environmental decision making. Regional transportation planning, health and economic impacts of air pollution, and industrial policy are examples of the fields whose knowledge are being integrated in order to address the root causes of air pollution and devise successful long-term strategies to protect human health. The assessments also integrate the analysis of urban, regional, and global air pollution and climate change-related issues that are typically addressed separately by different levels of government but which would benefit greatly by a more holistic approach.

Primary Research Area
Physical/Analytical Chemistry
Interdisciplinary interests
Atmospheric and Environmental

Outreach Activities
I have advised a number of Hispanic undergraduate and graduate students regarding their academic goals and their options of future studies and employment, taking advantage of my own Hispanic origin and of my membership in the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native American Scientists. I have also presented lectures to groups consisting mainly of underrepresented students, and participated in various events involving academic honors and recognitions handed specifically to members of minority groups. I also serve as honorary co-chair of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Scholar Program, which awards scholarships and identifies mentors for thousands of highly motivated students in chemistry from underrepresented groups.

Selected Publications