Mark Johnson Wins E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy

Portrait of a man in a blazer and glasses
October 8, 2021

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has honored Mark A. Johnson, the Arthur T. Kemp Professor of Chemistry in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with its E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy.

The award, presented since 1997, recognizes outstanding accomplishments in fundamental or applied spectroscopy in chemistry.

Johnson’s lab develops new instrumentation to document how chemical reactions occur. His research combines elements of mass-selective vibrational spectroscopy and cryogenic ion processing to study a wide variety of chemical phenomena, including small molecule activation, gas-liquid interfacial chemistry, and intracluster hydrogen bonding.

For example, Johnson and his team created a highly sensitive instrument that revealed how water molecules act together to accommodate and transport electric charge. By fast-freezing chemical processes, Johnson is able to isolate transient structures and show the contorted arrangements of atoms during a reaction.

Practical applications for Johnson’s work range from the optimization of alternative energy technologies to the development of pharmaceuticals.

“This award recognizes the collective contributions of a large number of students, postdocs, and collaborators over the past decade who, together, have created new tools for chemical analysis,” Johnson said. “That endeavor continues unabated through the efforts of the talented team working to extend the chemical scope of our methods.”

As part of his ACS honor, Johnson will deliver the award address at the spring awards symposium of the ACS Division of Physical Chemistry.