Reinhold Rasmussen wins prestigious 2009 Outstanding Oregon Scientist Award

Professor Rasmussen with air sample container

Professor Rasmussen in Borneo with air sampling container. (2008)


Portland, Ore.—Reinhold Rasmussen, Ph.D. has won the prestigious 2009 Outstanding Oregon Scientist Award. 

Rasmussen won the award for his pioneering contributions in the atmospheric chemistry of trace gases in the earth's atmosphere. An internationally recognized researcher in air chemistry, he has written more than 200 publications and been cited over 5500 times.

The annual prize by the Oregon Academy of Science rewards scientists in Oregon who have made significant contributions to basic or applied research in the natural, physical, or social sciences.

Rasmussen's research produced the primary atmospheric measurements that demonstrated the year-by-year increase of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that deplete the earth's ozone layer. He later discovered that trees release significant quantities of isoprene to the atmosphere, and that isoprene and associated terpenes from trees far exceeded releases of these chemicals by human activities, both within the U.S.A. and globally. Prof. Rasmussen was also responsible for developing the processes for production of SUMMA canisters for air-gas sampling, which became the gold-standard sampling device for trace gas research worldwide.

Rasmussen received his Ph.D in Botany-Plant Physiology from Washington University in 1964, preceded by an M.Ed. in Biology (1960) and a B.S. in Geology and Botany (1958) both from the University of Massachusetts. He became a Professor at the Oregon Graduate Center (later Oregon Graduate Institute, now part of the Oregon Health and Science University) in 1977.

Rasmussen continues to make significant contributions to air chemistry. He is currently focusing on pushing the detection limits of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) full scan analyses of ambient air volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the parts-per-quadrillion level; measuring the non-chlorine replacement fluoro-hydrocarbons as they begin to accumulate in the atmosphere, and identification of the polar compounds that dominate the VOC's in the atmosphere of rural and remote areas away from the immediate influence of anthropogenic sources.

Rasmussen will receive the award at the annual meeting of the Oregon Academy on Saturday, February 28, 2009, at Western Oregon University, in Monmouth.

The Oregon Academy of Science's Outstanding Scientist Award is given yearly to scientists that have made significant contributions to basic or applied research in the natural, physical, or social sciences. Since the inception of the prize in 1949, there have been 73 scientists who have been honored with the award.