Mario J. Molina, a world leader in developing our understanding of the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer, is the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Sciences in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
Professor Molina's work led to the first definitive demonstration of a truly global environmental effect of human activities-the chlorofluorocarbon-ozone depletion theory first presented in 1974. He was the principal author of the paper describing this theory. Dr. Molina was also principal author or co-author on a meritorious series of papers from 1976-86 that defined and refined the relevant kinetics of the compounds that act as "temporary reservoirs" for the free radicals responsible for catalytic ozone destruction.
More recently, he demonstrated in the laboratory a fundamental new chemical reaction whereby the reservoir compounds ClONO2 and HC1 can decompose on the surface of ice cloud particles in the polar stratosphere yielding Cl2 and thus Cl and ClO. Equally important he proposed and demonstrated experimentally a new reaction sequence involving formation and decomposition of ClOOCl, which enables the above ClO in polar regions to catalytically destroy ozone. This contribution of a new chemical reaction and a new catalytic cycle appears to account for most if not all of the observed ozone destruction in the Antarctic Ozone Hole.
Dr. Molina's latest research directions include work at the interface of the atmosphere-biosphere, which is critical to understanding global climate-change processes.
Molina has received several awards for his scientific work, including the Tyler Award in 1983, the Esselen Award of the American Chemical Society in 1987, and the Newcomb-Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his 1987 paper in Science describing his work on the Antarctic Ozone Hole chemistry. In 1989 he received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and from 1990-92 he was a Pew Scholar on Conservation and the Environment.
In 1994, Professor Molina was named by President Clinton to serve on the 18-member President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The PCAST advises the President on issues involving science and technology in achieving national goals, and assists the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council in securing private-sector participation in its activities.
Molina was born in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1943. He came to MIT in 1989 after holding teaching and research positions at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Irvine and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
He holds a chemical engineering degree (1965) from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, a postgraduate degree (1967) from the University of Freiburg, West Germany, and the PhD (1972) from the University of California, Berkeley.
Molina’s wife, Luisa, also conducts research at MIT related to ozone depletion. Luisa Molina is a Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Their son, Felipe, is a freshman at Brown University.
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