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Louis Allamandola

Louis Allamandola

Professional Biography:

Dr. Louis Allamandola, Senior Scientist in the Space Science Division, is the founder and director of The Astrophysics & Astrochemistry Laboratory. After majoring in Chemistry at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, New Jersey he was trained in low-temperature spectroscopic techniques under the tutelage of Professor G. C. Pimentel at the University of California at Berkeley, followed by postdoctoral research on energy transfer at cryogenic temperatures with Professor J. W. Nibler at Oregon State University. In 1976 Lou went to work at the Laboratory for Astrophysics, directed by Professor J. Mayo Greenberg, at Leiden University in The Netherlands where he and Dr. Fred Baas developed the techniques required to prepare and study laboratory analogs of ultracold interstellar/pre-cometary ice grains using spectroscopic methods. At Leiden, from 1976 until 1983, he also directed the research of six Ph.D. students with Professor Greenberg and Dr. Fred Baas. In 1983 he came to NASA Ames Research Center to develop an Astrochemistry Laboratory.

He has over 35 years of experience in pioneering laboratory studies on the chemistry, composition, and spectroscopy of interstellar matter with emphasis on organics and interstellar and solar system ices. He is one of the key proponents and spokesmen of the interstellar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) model and has driven the extensive Ames laboratory studies of PAHs under relevant interstellar conditions. He has broad experience with low-temperature spectroscopy and astronomical observation. Significant contributions made by The Astrophysics & Astrochemistry Laboratory include:

determining the mid- and far-infrared properties of over 800 PAHs in their neutral and charged forms under astrophysical conditions and making this collection available to the community at large (,

the demonstration that biogenic organic molecules can be made under the harsh, abiotic conditions in extraterrestrial ices implying they are widespread throughout the Galaxy and cosmos,

the recognition that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon ions containing nitrogen are common in space, resolving long-standing astronomical mysteries associated with infrared emission bands and optical absorption bands that are widespread throughout the universe,

the identification of many of the known molecular species frozen in interstellar/pre-cometary ices, and the recognition that a significant fraction of the carbon in the interstellar medium is carried by both micro diamonds and organic materials.

He has over 200 publications in peer-reviewed major journals and book chapters and has edited two books with Professor Xander Tielens on Interstellar Dust.

Dr. Allamandola has served on many NASA advisory committees, scientific meeting organizing committees and as proceedings editor for several symposia. He received NASA-Ames’ H. Julian Allen Award for Best Scientific Paper from Ames in 1985 and again in 2006. He was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1992 and was recognized as a NASA Ames Associate Fellow for 1996 and 1997. In 2006 he received The Presidential Rank Award and was elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). ISI lists Dr. Allamandola as one of the world’s most highly cited authors in the Space Sciences.

Lou is married to Mary Scott Allamandola. They have 4 children: Monica, Pat, David, and Anthony.

10/83 to present, Astrochemistry Laboratory Group Leader, NASA Ames 9/76 to 9/83, Laboratoriuum voor Astrofysica Faculty member, Leiden University, the Netherlands.


Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 1974.
B.Sci., Chemistry, St. Peter’s College, Jersey City, NJ, 1968.

Research Interests:

Decades of work in infrared astronomy, astrochemistry, and exobiology. Ames Astrochemistry laboratory founder and director. Co-I of previous NAI investigation. Numerous SOCs and NASA advisory panels e.g Origins Subcommittee, Astrobiology Roadmap team, Ames Science Advisory Council, Bahcall Committee,  NASA’s Infrared-Submillimeter-Radio MOWG, etc.

Select Publications:

E. Peeters, et al (2002). The Rich 6 to 9-micron Spectrum of Interstellar PAHs. A&A 390, 1089

Pendleton, Y.J., and Allamandola, L.J. (2002). The Organic Refractory Material in the Diffuse Interstellar Medium: Mid-IR Spectroscopic Constraints. Astrophys J. Supp. Ser., 138, 75-98.

Bernstein, M. P., et al.., (2002) Racemic Amino Acids from the Ultraviolet Photolysis of Interstellar Ice Analogues, Nature 416, 401-403

Deamer, D., et al. (2002) The First Cell Membranes, Astrobiology, in-press

Allamandola, L. J., Hudgins, D. M., & Sandford, S. A. (1999). Modeling the Unidentified Infrared Emission with Combinations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. Astrophys. J. (Letters) 511, L115-L119.

Allamandola, al. (1999) “Evolution of Interstellar Ices,” Space Science Rev. 90, 219-232.

Allamandola, L.J., (1997) “The Origin, Composition, and History of Comets,” NASA CP-10152.

Allamandola, L.J.,et al. (1997), “Interstellar/Precometary Organic Material and the Photochemical Evolution of Complex Organics,” in “Astronomical and Biochemical Origins and the Search for Life in the Universe,” eds C.B. Cosmovici, S. Bowyer, and D. Werthimer, (Editrice Compositori, Bologna), 23-49 (1997).

Part of over 170 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters

Lou’s major publications can be found on the Astrochemistry Laboratory’s Publications Pages

Awards and Other:

NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal
NASA-Ames H. Julien Allen Award for Best Scientific Paper
Ames Associate Fellow

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