Allamandola, who established the Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, was elected a Fellow by both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He also received the Presidential Rank Award, one of the highest honors given to a civilian by the U.S. government.
"Dr. Allamandola's seminal contributions in astrochemistry have forever revolutionized our understanding of interstellar molecules, interstellar ices and the chemical physics of the interstellar medium," said Yvonne Pendleton, chief of the Space Science Division at NASA Ames, in California's Silicon Valley.
Allamandola was among the first to hypothesize that a common kind of infrared emission (colors of heat) known to scientists as the UIR bands were coming from molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Allamandola recognized that these species could be probes of chemistry and structure of the regions of space where stars are born and die. In 1989, Allamandola wrote a manuscript that is now considered the cornerstone of the PAHs model.
At Ames, he cultivated the experimental methods required to reproduce space in the laboratory. By developing new techniques that addressed a wider range of astrophysical problems, Allamandola established a worldwide reputation in the study of the composition, chemistry and spectroscopic properties of interstellar and solar system dust and ices.
He saw the value in bringing together different disciplines, such as low-temperature chemistry and spectroscopy, and interstellar astrophysics. Working in collaboration with scientists from around the world, Allamandola has pursued an active program of observational and theoretical studies. After receiving his doctorate in chemical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, Allamandola began his career in 1976 at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He joined NASA Ames Research Center in 1983.
Each year, members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Physical Society (APS) honor some of their peers as Fellows. Fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. Winners of the Presidential Rank Award have demonstrated their ability as leaders to foster partnerships and community solutions to achieve results, and to get the job done more effectively and efficiently.
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