Professor Herbst’s major research field lies in the interdisciplinary area of molecular astronomy, which is the study of molecules throughout the universe, especially in regions in between stars known as interstellar clouds. These objects eventually collapse to form new generations of stars and planetary systems, so the molecules found in interstellar clouds are related to the molecules found in planets such as our own. Herbst is specifically interested in the chemical processes by which molecules grow, in using these chemical processes to predict the actual concentrations of molecules, and in the role of molecules in the understanding of their physical environments. His research was featured in Chemical and Engineering News, the popular journal of the American Chemical Society. A fellow of the American Physical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry (U. K.), Herbst has won a number of international prizes including the Centenary Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Below are pictures of two astronomical objects where molecules are found.
On the right is a nebula of gas and dust surrounding an old star. It is known as the “red rectangle.” nebula around star
Below is an interstellar cloud so dense that no light can pass through it.
dense interstellar cloud

Recent Publications

A New Model on the Chemistry of Ionizing Radiation in Solids: CIRIS,.Shingledecker, C. N., & Herbst, E., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 19, 11043-11056 (2017)

Unified Microscopic-Macroscopic Monte Carlo Calculations of Complex Organic Molecule Chemistry in Cold Cores,. Chang Q., & Herbst, E., ApJ, 819:145(1-13) (2016)

Chemical and Physical Characterization of Collapsing Low-Mass Prestellar Dense Clouds, Hincelin, U., Commercon, B., Wakelam, BV., Hersant, F., Guilloteau, S., & Herbst, E., ApJ, 822:12(1-31) (2016)

Complex organic molecules in protoplanetary disks, Walsh, C., Millar, T. J., Nomura, H., Herbst, E., Widicus Weaver, S., Aikawa, Y., Laas, J. C., & Vasyunin, A. I., A&A, 563, A33(1-35) (2014)

Reactive Desorption and Radiative Association as Possible Drivers of Complex Molecule Formation in the Cold Interstellar Medium, Vasyunin, A. I., & Herbst, E., ApJ, 769, id. 34(1-9) (2013)

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Room 152, Chemistry Building

A.B. University of Rochester, 1966

Ph.D. Harvard University, 1972

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University and Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado

Research Interests: 
Astrochemistry; chemical kinectics and dynamics in the gas and on surfaces; molecular spectrocsopy