David L. Huestis ’68

2003 Distinguished Citizen Award

View all Distinguished Citizen Award recipients

David Huestis is associate director of the Molecular Physics Laboratory at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., where for 30 years he has directed and participated in experimental and theoretical investigations of fundamental kinetic and optical processes. A chemistry and mathematics major at Macalester, he studied chemistry and physics at Caltech, earning his M.S. and Ph.D. by 1973, followed by postdoctoral work in applied physics.

At SRI, some 90 percent of Huestis’ research is for agencies such as NASA and NSF. Among his most rewarding professional accomplishments are the invention of the first visible-wavelength excimer laser (1979), understanding the spectrum of light emitted by oxygen molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere (1983), explaining the unusual solubility behavior of buckminsterfullerene (a recently discovered form of carbon) (1993), and the discovery of light emitted by oxygen atoms in the night atmosphere of Venus (1999). Applications of his work include high-power visible and ultraviolet gas lasers, planetary atmospheres, and non-destructive evaluation and sensing technologies.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Huestis has published more than 90 articles in professional journals and books, and regularly contributes to professional conferences. In addition to his own research, he acts as an adviser to undergraduate summer students through the NSF REU program.

Professor Truman Schwartz said, "What I remember most about David is that he was the first student I taught who was indisputably smarter than I. So I sent David problems in quantum and statistical mechanics that I could not solve, and I marveled at the results." Huestis is married to Wray Hughes Huestis ’67, professor of chemistry at Stanford University.