Prof. Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts

Contact Information

328 Rowland Hall
Irvine, CA 92697-2025

Group web site:

(949) 824-7670

Founder and co-Director, AirUCI Institute.  Professor of Chemistry and UCI Distinguished Professor [Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of California, Riverside]. Professor Finlayson-Pitts brings expertise in laboratory experiments and a broad background in atmospheric chemistry to the ORU.

Professor  Finlayson-Pitts has been Director of the AirUCI Institute, initially funded by the National Science Foundation, since its inception in 2004. Her research is directed primarily to elucidating the kinetics, mechanisms, and photochemistry of chemical reactions and processes at the surfaces of airborne particles. Reactions of organic (gasoline-like) compounds and nitrogen oxides that collect on surfaces of these particles—as well as structures, vegetation, and other objects—are not at all well understood, yet might be quite important since they occur close to the earth's surface where we live and breathe.

The field of atmospheric chemistry encompasses the chemical and physical processes playing key roles in the natural and polluted atmosphere, from urban to remote areas and from the lower to the upper atmosphere. Understanding these processes requires field measurements; the development, testing, and application of models; and laboratory studies of kinetics and mechanisms.

Research in her laboratory is directed primarily to elucidating the fundamental kinetics, mechanisms, and photochemistry of relevant gaseous reactions as well as heterogeneous processes at the surfaces of, and in, particles. She has a number of collaborations with faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as at other institutionsdomestically and internationally, that help to develop an integrated understanding of these systems from the molecular level to ambient air.

There are four overall systems of current interest:

  • reactions of sea salt particles to generate photochemically active halogen gases such as Cl2, Br2, and BrCl
  • reactions of oxides of nitrogen at aqueous interfaces and in thin water films on surfaces to generate HONO and other species such as HNO3 and N2O
  • reactions of organics in and on particles, and reactions that lead to new particle formation and growth
  • atmospheric fates of neonicotinoids and their role in food security and agricultural sustainability

Experimental approaches used for elucidating the chemistry include Fourier transform infra-red spectrometry (FTIR), diffuse reflectance infra-red Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), attenuated total reflectance FTIR (ATR-FTIR), long path FTIR, differential optical absorption spectrometry (DOAS), and various mass spectrometry methods. In addition, two unique aerosol chambers equipped with particle generation and sizing systems, long path FTIR, DOAS, and atmospheric pressure ionization mass spectrometry (API-MS) are applied to studying the formation of new particles and their interactions of gases in real time.

Research Interests: 
  • Atmospheric Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry
Selected Honors and Awards: 
Governor General's Medal, Trent University, 1970
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1970
National Research Council of Canada Science Scholarship in 1970 and a Postgraduate Scholarship in 1974 (were not used since both could be applied only in Canada)
Outstanding Young Women of America, 1979
Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Awards (1984, 1986 and 1988) at California State University, Fullerton
Honorary Member into the Golden Key National Honor Society
Distinguished Faculty Member/Faculty Marshal, School of Natural Science and Mathematics, California State University, Fullerton, 1990
Alumni Lecturer, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada, 1990-91
J. Diefenderfer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Students, California State University, Fullerton, 1991
State of California Governor's Employee Safety Award, 1991
Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship, 1994
UCI School of Physical Sciences Award for Outstanding Contribut ions to Undergraduate Education, 1996-1997
Orange County ACS Service Through Chemistry Award, 1999
UCI Graduate Voice Faculty Mentor Award, 2000
Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, 2002
American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology, 2004
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2006
National Academy of Sciences, 2006
UCI Distinguished Professor, 2006
ACS Tolman Medal, 2008
Coalition for Clean Air's Carl Moyer Award for Scientific Leadership and Technical Excellence for body of work in restoring clean air to California, 2009
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013
Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award, California Air Resources Board, 2013
Honorary Lifetime Member, Iota Sigma Pi, 2016
Francis P. Garvan–John M. Olin Medal of the American Chemical Society, 2017
Distinguished Faculty Award for Research, University of California Irvine, 2017-2018
Polanyi Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2018
Environment Prize, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019
California 74th Assembly District's Woman of the Year, 2021