Adventures in Broadband Microwave Spectroscopy

We are a new group which is in the process of building a modern spectrometer from the ground up. This instrument will use low frequency light in the microwave region (6-18 GHz) to excite transitions in molecules between the quantized energy levels that come from the rotational kinetic energy. Rotational Spectroscopy uses the sensitive relationship between a molecule’s structure and its rotational frequencies to experimentally determine bond-angles and bond-lengths for a particular molecule or a weakly bound complex.

If you choose to join our research adventures, you will be involved in one or more of the following:

  • Building a vacuum chamber which will be the medium in which the molecules will interact with the radiofrequency light.
  • Working with state-of-the-art microwave electronics, which are the same type of electronics used in the telecommunications industry. These will be our “fancy legos” that we will use to generate and detect the microwave radiation.
  • Designing the source to introduce the molecules into the vacuum chamber. This will be a pulse valve source that will cool the molecules within a few degrees of absolute zero (Trot = 1-2 K).

Essay Prompt (~one paragraph): What interests you about this research? 

Name of research group, project, or lab
Molecular Spectroscopy Lab (MolSpec)
Why join this research group or lab?

You will be applying tools that grew out of other fields to solve current chemistry problems, working at the intersection between physics, chemistry, and engineering.  Thus, you will participate in a multidisciplinary research team, which resembles the kind of environment you will encounter in the future.

We are looking for curious students that want to learn more about: vacuum systems, microwave electronics, molecular spectroscopy, and molecular interactions.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

This research is accessible for all academic levels. We will teach what you need to know along the way.  Thus the only required qualifications are curiosity and the willingness to learn.

It is helpful, but not required, to have some knowledge of MATLAB and Computer aided design programs.



Time commitment
Fall - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

This project has its foundation in physical chemistry but uses instrumental methods that stretch far beyond those borders. You will gain understanding of molecular interactions at the quantum level and become familiar with essential tools in information technology, including arbitrary waveform generators, digital oscilloscopes, and a wide range of fast digital electronics.

Moreover, you will become familiar with RF and microwave electronics, electronic structure calculations, vacuum hardware, and usage of molecule visualization programs.

Contact Information:
Alicia Hernandez-Castillo
Assistant Professor
Name of project director or principal investigator
Alicia Hernandez-Castillo
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 10 appl.
Hours per week
Fall - Part Time
Project categories
Chemistry (+2)