Shaul Mukamel
Shaul Mukamel, a UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of chemistry, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. His 1995 book "Principles of Nonlinear Optical Spectroscopy" is widely relied upon in this research field. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Irvine, Calif., April 29, 2015 – Shaul Mukamel, a UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of chemistry who probes molecular secrets using ultrafast pulses of laser light, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Mukamel, 67, joins 84 new members and 21 foreign associates announced April 28 by the academy, a distinction considered one of the highest honors in science.

“It’s very nice to be recognized by the community,” Mukamel said. “I feel that the environment of support at UCI has contributed a lot to my work and to my success, and I am grateful to have this honor.”

Mukamel has been hugely influential in his field, said UCI physical sciences dean Ken Janda.

“Professor Mukamel’s work has influenced my own for almost 40 years,” he said. “He explains complex theories clearly and concisely to help experimentalists know which data will make an impact. This is one of many reasons he has had such an important impact. We are lucky to have him at UC Irvine.”

Chancellor Howard Gillman said Mukamel is a trailblazer.

“This extraordinary recognition only confirms what we have long known: Shaul Mukamel is a true pioneer whose insightful and profound research has transformed his field and created important new areas of exploration,” Gillman said.

“Since our founding 50 years ago, UCI scientists have been at the forefront of scientific advancement, and Shaul joins 40 other current UCI faculty members who have been welcomed into one of the National Academies. We couldn’t be happier for him and more proud of him.”

Mukamel is well known in the research community for designing cutting-edge experiments to reveal how molecules interact with short laser pulses. His theoretical work in the realm of “ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopy” seeks to understand and control chemical reactions via lasers.

His recent investigations include employing the X-ray regime of the light spectrum and the quantum properties of light to observe the motion of electrons and atomic nuclei in real time.

“I was always interested in using lasers to study molecules,” Mukamel said. “I have been keeping track of the state-of-the-art new technologies and anticipating what will come and trying to design experiments that will make use of these advancements. My driving force is exploring the fundamental science.”

But while his work could open new doors of basic understanding, it also has deep implications for practical applications in biomedical imaging and materials science, including better methods for harvesting solar energy.

Mukamel’s 1995 book Principles of Nonlinear Optical Spectroscopy is widely relied upon in this research field.

The National Academy of Sciences has a total of 2,250 active members, including 25 from UC Irvine; nine of those are in UCI’s School of Physical Sciences.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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