Professor Molina has been involved in developing our scientific understanding of the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer and its susceptibility to human-made perturbations. He was a co-author, with F. S. Rowland, of the 1974 publication in the British magazine Nature, of their research on the threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases that were being used as propellants in spray cans, as refrigerants, as solvents, etc. Subsequently, he and his co-workers proposed and demonstrated in the laboratory a fundamentally new chemical reaction whereby chlorine is activated on the surface of ice cloud particles in the polar stratosphere and a new reaction sequence, which accounts for most of the observed ozone destruction in the Antarctic stratosphere.
Professor Molina has also been involved with the chemistry of air pollution of the lower atmosphere. He also is pursuing interdisciplinary work on tropospheric pollution issues, working with colleagues from several disciplines on the problem of rapidly growing cities with severe air pollution problems. He is the leader of the Integrated Program on Urban, Regional, and Global Air Pollution, a collaborative research and education program based at MIT and aimed at addressing the complex and interrelated environmental issues spawned by the world’s burgeoning mega-cities and their impact on the global environment. Mexico City serves as the initial case study fro the Project’s research and educational activities.
Professor Molina was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He holds a Chemical Engineer degree (1965) from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry (1972) from the University of California, Berkeley. He came to MIT in 1989 with a joint appointment in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Chemistry and was named MIT Institute Professor in 1997. Prior to joining MIT, he held teaching and research positions at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; the University of California, Irvine; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
Professor Molina was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 and the Institute of Medicine in 1996. Currently he serves on the President’s Committee of Advisors in Science and Technology, the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, the National Research Council Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, and on the boards of US-Mexico Foundation for Science and other non-profit environmental organizations. He has received several awards for his scientific work including the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Professors F. Sherwood Rowland and P. Crutzen for their work in atmospheric chemistry, and the 1999 United Nations Environment Program Sasakawa Prize.