Stephen Cramer is an Advanced Light Source Professor at UC Davis. He fell in love with chemistry in second grade, when he received his first Gilbert chemistry set and watched Mr. Wizard on TV. Once at Williams College in the early ‘70’s, he became hooked on chemical spectroscopy while working on optical absorption and luminescence with William Moomaw and with Thomas Krugh at the University of Rochester. His Ph.D. thesis work under Keith Hodgson involved the first EXAFS studies of metalloenzymes at the newly founded Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project, along with Raman spectroscopy and CARS with Bruce Hudson. Following an NIH postdoc with Harry Gray at Cal Tech in 1978, he joined Exxon Research in New Jersey, and for 7 years he learned the ups and downs of industrial research. This was followed by two years at Schlumberger-Doll Research, where he again learned the ups and downs of industrial research, and another two years at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Lab. In 1989 his second grade academic aspirations came true, and he joined UC Davis in a joint position with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He became fulltime at Davis in 2016 and emeritus in 2018.
For most of his career, Cramer’s research has focused on synchrotron-based spectroscopic techniques for chemical characterization of biological systems and complex materials. Despite heavy involvement with x-rays, vibrational spectroscopy has remained dear to his heart. He has published campus-based work involving based IR, Raman, CARS, and femtosecond vibrational spectroscopy. His favorite technique, nuclear resonance vibrational spectroscopy (NRVS), merges these two fields –a synchrotron x-ray experiment which provides vibrational information.
Cramer’s current research emphasizes the enzymes that fix nitrogen (nitrogenase) or produce hydrogen (hydrogenase). He is proud to have mentored over 40 students and postdoctoral associates. Thanks in large part to their insights and hard work, as well as over 25 years of continuous DOE and NIH funding, he has been honored with the 2010 ACS ‘Spectrochemical Analysis Award’, the Edward Stern Outstanding Achievement Award from the International X-Ray Absorption Society in 2012, the Lu Jiaxi Lectureship from Xiamen University in 2012, an AAAS fellow in 2013, the New York Society for Applied Spectroscopy Gold Medal in 2013, a Humboldt Foundation Research Award in 2014, and an Einstein Visiting Fellowship at TU-Berlin in 2016.