Moshe Shapiro

Department of Chemistry; Department of Physics and Astronomy

Moshe Shapiro, who was a research pioneer in the area of quantum control of molecular dynamics, passed away on December 3, 2013 in Israel. He was 69 years old.

Moshe did his PhD under the guidance of Professor Raphael D. Levine, in Theoretical Chemistry at the Hebrew University, working on photodissociation and molecular collisions. This was followed by a postdoc at Harvard University during the years 1970-1972, where Moshe worked with Martin Karplus, the 2013 Nobel laureate in Chemistry. For the next 30 years he was a central member of the Department of Chemical Physics at the Weizmann Institute, where he served as a department chair and was the Jacques Mimran Professor of Chemical Physics. Starting in 2002, Moshe joined the Chemistry Department of the University of British Columbia where he held the Canada Research Chair Professorship in Quantum Control. During all these years he maintained close ties with the Weizmann Institute.

In the course of his career, Moshe published more than 300 scientific papers. He was one of the founders and central figures of the field of coherent control and co-author of the book Principles of the Quantum Control of Molecular Processes (Wiley, 2003, 2nd ed. 2012), along with Professor Paul Brumer of the University of Toronto.

Moshe’s research involved experiment as well as theory. Besides his pioneering work in quantum control he made lasting contributions to the theory of photodissociation and photorecombination processes, laser catalysis, quantum computing and decoherence, transition state spectroscopy, potential inversion and wavefunction imaging, strong field phenomena in atoms and molecules, quantum theory of elementary exchange reactions and foundations of quantum mechanics. In recent years his research focused on the control of molecular, atomic, and photonic processes with coherent light, quantum pattern recognition, coherent chiral separation and the coherent suppression of spontaneous emission, decoherence and other decay processes.

His awards include the Willis E. Lamb Medal for achievements in the Physics of Quantum Electronics (2007), John C. Polanyi Award of The Canadian Society of Chemistry (2011), Fellow of the American Physical Society (2004), Fellow of the UK Institute of Physics (2004), the Israel Chemical Society Award (2001), the Michael Landau Prize (1985), Lisa Meitner – Alexander von Humboldt Research Award (1995), the Weizmann Prize of the city of Tel Aviv (1999), the Kolthoff Prize of the Technion (1998) and the Sacks and Yeroslawski awards of the Weizmann Institute.

Moshe is remembered by the community for his broad-ranging research interests and his passionate love of science. He was constantly innovating and always abreast of the most recent developments in his field. He was well-known and appreciated for his lively interactions with both senior and junior colleagues, both at conferences and one-on-one. He left large footprints to follow.

Primary Recipient Awards

Wall Colloquia Abroad, Moshe Shapiro, 2011

Moshe Shapiro

Coherence and Decoherence at Ultracold Temperatures

Principal Investigator: Moshe Shapiro, Department of Chemistry, UBC

This colloquium was co-organized and co-funded, with funds from the Wall Colloquia Abroad program, with our partner institute, the Technical University of Munich, Institute for Advanced Study (TUM-IAS) and was held at TUM-IAS, Germany, September 6-9, 2011.

The symposium discussed issues of coherence in cold (<1K) and ultracold (<1mK) molecular system and how to control and minimize the deleterious effects of the omni-present decoherence processes that arise due to our inability to completely isolate the system from the environment. Theoretical proposals as well as experimental methods for utilizing coherence as a means of controlling chemical reactions between and within ultracold molecules and ways of controlling decoherence were discussed.

Major Thematic Grant, Moshe Shapiro, 2009

Moshe Shapiro

This Major Thematic Grant will fund research over the next three years (2009-2011) bridging the gap between chemistry and physics, between experimentalists and theorists, and combining the "ultra-fast" with the "ultra-cold."

It has three major objectives: (i) To control chemical reactions within and between ultra-cold molecules using both ultra-fast laser pulses and stationary electric and magnetic fields. This integration will lay the foundations of the new research field of "ultracold coherent chemistry." (ii) To create and study a new phase of condensed matter consisting of ordered ensembles of ultra-cold molecules, called molecular "optical lattices." Among other applications, such lattices would aid in the development of "quantum computers." (iii) To explore an entirely new chemical regime of molecular gases confined by laser fields to one and two dimensions, and obtain insights into the cooperative effects exhibited by ensembles of ultra-cold molecules in confined geometries with extremely large wave-lengths. These three directions constitute a completely new paradigm in the fields of chemical dynamics and Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) physics.

This Major Thematic Grant funded an International Workshop on "Coherence in Ultracold Molecular Physics" held on May 20-23, 2010 at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. The purpose of this workshop was to bring together the leading experts in the research fields of ultracold molecules and coherent light-matter interactions in order to discuss recent fundamental discoveries and identify new directions in the research of coherent control of both cold (<1K) and ultracold (<1mK) molecular matter.

Co-principal Investigator Awards

International Visiting Research Scholars, Ilya Averbukh, 2012

Ilya Averbukh
Moshe Shapiro