Robert Gamache’s Research Focuses on the Chemistry and Physics of Planetary Atmospheres

Prof. Robert Gamache
Prof. Robert Gamache

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Robert Gamache, a professor emeritus in the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has achieved an academic milestone, with his scientific publications garnering more than 30,000 Google Scholar citations.

“The significance of this number of citations is that scientists and researchers worldwide are using my published work,” says Gamache, who is a recognized expert in the theoretical calculations of line shape parameters, which are needed for the quantitative analysis of spectroscopic observations of the atmosphere of the Earth, the other planets in our solar system and exoplanets.

To date, he has published 195 peer-reviewed journal articles and scientific reports and presented more than 250 papers at professional conferences.

Another indication of the quality of research being conducted by a faculty member at a university is a high “h-index” score, which measures both the productivity and citation impact of a scientist or scholar’s publications.

Gamache’s h-index of 57 means that 57 of his research papers have been cited at least 57 times by other people, and his i10 index of 136 means that 136 of his papers have been referenced 10 times or more. These kinds of numbers have earned him a spot in Thomson Reuters’ list of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” in 2014.

Gamache’s contributions to the HITRAN database, the standard compilation of molecular data used to simulate atmospheric spectra, have helped NASA’s Earth Observing System and its missions to Mars and Venus, as well as several satellite programs of the European Space Agency, EUMETSAT and CNES.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Image by NASA/JPL

Gamache’s contributions to the field of theoretical spectroscopy have helped NASA’s Earth remote-sensing missions as well as the exploration of other planets, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shown here circling the red planet in this artist’s concept.

In 2020, the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer published a special issue in honor of the scientific contributions of Gamache and his colleague, Prof. Vladimir Tyuterev of the University of Reims in France.

“This is a great honor for Dr. Gamache to be recognized by a well-known journal,” says Dean Noureddine Melikechi of the Kennedy College of Sciences

Gamache currently serves as senior vice president for academic affairs, student affairs and international relations at the UMass President’s Office in Boston. He maintains his active researcher role at UML, where he has a team of undergraduate and postdoctoral researchers. 

Gamache received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from UMass Amherst in 1978.

A Respected Mentor and Colleague

“Bob is an incredible scientist and the best researcher I know,” says Danielle (Niles) Noyes ’06, a former broadcast meteorologist for NECN and WBZ-TV Boston who worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Gamache and had published several journal papers. “Bob truly taught me what it means to be a scientist, to always be questioning and considering potential solutions that are outside the box.”

JQSRT cover

The Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer published a special issue in March 2020 honoring the work of Gamache and his colleague, Prof. Vladimir Tyuterev of the University of Reims in France.

Sarah Wroblewski ’05 agrees. “Thanks to Bob’s mentoring, I learned a lot about research,” says the Emmy Award-winning broadcast meteorologist at WBZ-TV Boston. “Even when things seemed to not compute correctly, he reassured me that trying to solve unanswered questions, there really were no wrong answers. I have taken that piece of advice with me into my career now. Failure is not the end; in fact, it is just one way it didn't work.”

“Bob was a great mentor, giving me the opportunity to do undergraduate research as soon as my freshman year,” says Anne Laraia ’10, a global data and analytics manager at McKinsey & Company in Stamford, Connecticut. “He ultimately influenced my decision to go to graduate school and pursue my Ph.D. in atmospheric science at Caltech, giving me the confidence and encouragement that I needed.”

Iouli Gordon, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who directs HITRAN, says Gamache has contributed to the database project for almost 40 years.

“HITRAN and its sister database, HITEMP, are widely used by thousands of scientists and engineers for atmospheric and astrophysical applications as well as in medicine, engineering and many other fields,” says Gordon.

“Prof. Gamache is one of the very few experts internationally to calculate the pressure-induced parameters for spectral lines of key absorbers of light in planetary atmospheres,” he says. “Apart from being a long-time contributor to the database, Prof. Gamache is an essential member of HITRAN’s international steering committee, which is composed of recognized experts in the field.”

“Bob is an excellent scientist,” says Alain Campargue of the Université Grenoble Alpes in France. “I am working on experimental molecular spectroscopy, while Bob is on the theory side. So, in my lab in Grenoble, we are recording absorption spectra, and frequently we need the line profile parameters that Bob is calculating to analyze our data.”

Keeyoon Sung, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is working with Gamache on an exoplanet research project sponsored by the space agency. Sung says Gamache has made significant contributions to the field of infrared spectroscopy.

“Dr. Gamache performs quantum mechanics-based calculations to determine the spectroscopic line properties of atmospheric molecules, and his model can deal even with the weakest transitions, which are not measurable in a laboratory setting but are still being observed by high-precision sensors or by large telescopes,” Sung says.

“We are thankful for all he has done, from which we young researchers benefit.”