Education, Honors, Awards

  • Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award (2019)
  • Assistant Professor, James Madison University, USA (2015-present).
  • Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide, Australia (2015-present).
  • Ramsay Research Fellow, University of Adelaide, Australia (2013-2015).
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Georgia, USA (2011-2013).
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta, Canada (2007-2011).
  • Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Wyoming, USA (2007).
  • B.S., Chemistry, Griffith University, Australia (1999).

Research Interests

  • Laser spectroscopy of helium solvated molecules and clusters
  • Far-infrared synchrotron spectroscopy of floppy molecules

Research Description

We use two different types of instruments to perform the research interests listed above:

The first is a homebuilt helium nanodroplet isolation spectrometer for investigating molecules and clusters that are relevant to combustion, the atmosphere, or interstellar space. Superfluid helium nanodroplets perhaps provide the ultimate medium for the study of chemical dynamics at the molecular level. Their low temperature, enormous heat conductivity, and weakly interacting nature allow for the formation of species that are often inaccessible by conventional synthetic means. The following animation shows an example of the kinds of systems we are interested in (in this case, the exchange reaction between HCl and OH).


The second are synchrotron light sources for investigating floppy molecules that are relevant to the atmosphere or interstellar space. Synchrotrons offer high brightness far-infrared radiation that is very useful for investigating low frequency vibrations. Lately we have been focusing on understanding the torsional dynamics of small gas phase molecules like vinyl alcohol and formic acid. These experiments are performed at the Australian Synchrotron and the Canadian Light Source.

Selected Recent Publications (JMU undergrads underlined)

  •  I. Miller, T. Faulkner, and P. L. Raston, “Laser spectroscopy of methanol isotopologues in 4He nanodroplets: Probing the inertial response around a moderately light rotor”, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 123, 1630–1636 (2019).

  • R. M. Soliday, H. Bunn, I. Sumner, and P. L. Raston, “Far-infrared synchrotron spectroscopy and quantum chemical calculations of the potentially important interstellar molecule, 2-chloroethanol”, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 123, 1208–1216 (2019).

  • K. Hull, T. Wells, B. E. Billinghurst, H. Bunn, and P. L. Raston, “Synchrotron-based infrared spectroscopy of formic acid: Confirmation of the reassignment of Fermi-coupled 8 µm states”, AIP Advances, 9, 015021; 1-7 (2019).

  • T. Faulkner, I. Miller, and P. L. Raston, “Quantum cascade laser spectroscopy of OCS isotopologues in 4He nanodroplets: A test of adiabatic following for a heavy rotor”, Journal of Chemical Physics, 148, 044308; 1-7 (2018).

  • P. L. Raston, E. I. Obi, and G. E. Douberly, “Infrared spectroscopy of the entrance channel complex formed between the hydroxyl radical and methane in helium nanodroplets”, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 121, 7597–7602 (2017).

  • H. Bunn, R. M. Soliday, I. Sumner, and P. L. Raston, “Far-infrared spectroscopic characterization of anti-vinyl alcohol”, Astrophysical Journal, 847, 67; 1-5 (2017).

  • P. L. Raston and W. Jäger, “Rotational spectroscopic study of quantum solvation in isotopologic (pH2)N-CO clusters”, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 121, 3671–3678 (2017).

  • H. Bunn, R. J. Hudson, A. S. Gentleman, and P. L. Raston, “Far-infrared synchrotron spectroscopy and torsional analysis of the important interstellar molecule, vinyl alcohol”, ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, 1, 70-79 (2017).

  • J. T. Brice, T. Liang, P. L. Raston, A. B. McCoy, and G. E. Douberly, “Infrared Stark and Zeeman spectroscopy of OH–CO: The entrance channel complex along the OH + CO → trans-HOCO reaction pathway”, Journal of Chemical Physics, 145, 124310; 1-10 (2016).

  • H. Bunn, T. Bennett, A. Karayilan, and P. L. Raston, “Far-Infrared Spectroscopy of the H2-O2 van der Waals Complex”, Astrophysical Journal, 799, 65; 1-4 (2015).

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