Professor RJ Dwayne Miller
Appointed a University Professor in 2007
R. J. Dwayne Miller received his B. Sc. Honours Degree in Chemistry and Immunology from the University of Manitoba in 1978. His graduate work (Ph. D. 1983, Stanford University) under the direction of Michael D. Fayer focused on energy transport in model systems of photosynthesis and laser induced ultrasonics as a new probe of molecular dynamics. He gained a faculty position directly after his Ph. D. at the University of Rochester in 1983 and took a year leave to pursue a change in research direction as a NATO Science Fellow at Joseph Fourier Université in Grenoble, France under the direction of Hans Peter Trommsdorff and Robert Romenstain to work in the area of solid state physics. His independent research career in the Department of Chemistry and the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester initially focused on solving the fundamental electronic coupling between a discrete molecular state and the highly delocalized electronic bands of the solid state during electron transfer. This problem defines electrochemistry. R.J.D. Miller and his group demonstrated both experimentally and theoretically the means to determine this fundamental information by studying the electron transfer dynamics in real time. This work led to the first direct experimental determination of the electronic coupling and showed that it can occur in the strong coupling limit, in contrast to previous assumptions of weak interactions. Miller’s research efforts also took up the challenge to understand energy conversion in biological systems, notably how a single chemical bond can be so efficiently coupled to the enormous number of degrees of freedom in biological systems yet unerringly drive biological functions. This work led to the collective mode coupling model to explain the mechanism responsible for strongly correlated atoms in biopolymers. This model provides a simple framework to understand the structure-function relationship of biological systems.
In 1995, he relocated his research group to the University of Toronto to take up the NSERC Lumonics Chair in Quantum Optics. His group’s research efforts on protein dynamics significantly advanced the collective mode mechanism for explaining functionally relevant protein motions. This work was made possible by the laser development research program conducted in parallel to the basic research studies, which was instrumental in bringing new laser concepts to bear immediately on fundamental questions. This technology development program was extremely successful leading to novel laser architectures and new concepts in the use of diffractive optics for the implementation of nonlinear optics. The laser development work was commercialized by Lumonics. The diffractive optics innovations led to a startup company and a significant advance in nonlinear spectroscopy that is now over two orders of magnitude more sensitive than previous all-optical methods to investigate the structure and dynamics of matter. This work was instrumental in demonstrating the first successful 6-wave mixing experiment that gave a direct measurement of the so-called memory functions of liquids and more recently the first direct measurement of the many body forces defining the hydrogen bond network of liquid H2O. The crowning achievement of his research career has been the development of high brightness femtosecond electron pulsed sources. This latter work developed what is essentially the world’s fastest camera with atomic resolving power to make “molecular movies”. With this technological advance, his group was the first to be able to capture atomic motions during structural changes with femtosecond time resolution. This work realized a long held dream to watch atoms in real time, i.e. to watch atoms move during the breaking or making of a chemical bond. A fifteen year effort was finally realized in 2003 with the cover story of Science first announcing it to the world.
He has published over 165 research articles, one book, and several reviews. Over his 25 year career, he has trained 27 Ph. D. students and an equal number of postdoctoral students. His former students currently hold faculty or senior scientist positions at Yale, U. Michigan (2), Kaiserslautern, U. Regina, Wellesley, U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, NIST, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, ONERA / Université de Toulouse, and the Institute for Optical Sciences (Toronto), as representative examples. His research accomplishments have been recognized with an A.P. Sloan Fellowship, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Presidential Young Investigator Award, Polanyi Award, Rutherford Medal in Chemistry, and numerous named lectureships. He currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Femtoscience and is Director of the newly created Institute for Optical Sciences at the University of Toronto, and one of the three Scientific Directors of the Advanced Laser Light Source international laser facility in Varenne, Quebec. He has recently been appointed as a distinguished University Professor at the University of Toronto.