Randy Booker, Ph.D.

Chair & Professor of Physics

Contact Information

  • booker@unca.edu
  • 828-251-6269
  • 124C Rhoades/Robinson Hall

Randy, chair of our department (2000-2010 and 2018-present), currently teaches modern physics, upper-level experimental physics, and astronomy. In the past he has taught in the UNC Asheville Masters of Liberal Arts Program. His research interests include the microwave spectra of molecules found in the Earth's atmosphere and the interstellar medium. He received the UNC Asheville Distinguished Teacher Award in 1992 and the National Society of Physics Students Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award in 2015.


  • Ph.D., Duke University, 1986
  • MA, Duke University, 1983
  • BA, Rice University, 1979

Research Interests

Randy's research is in the field of molecular physics. Molecules can react to electromagnetic radiation in several different ways. The absorption of infrared radiation causes molecules to vibrate at discrete frequencies whereas the absorption of microwave and millimeter-wave radiation causes molecules to rotate at other discrete frequencies. Microwave investigations are conducted on two types of molecules: 1) those that are commonly found in the Earth's atmosphere (including atmospheric pollutants) and 2) those that are observed to play a central role in the large interstellar molecular clouds where stars are formed.
The rotational spectra collected by microwave spectroscopy are used to refine our knowledge of the structure and the dynamical motion of different molecular species. There has been collaboration with researchers at Duke University on the quantum mechanics of several different interactions between rotational and vibrational molecular motions. Also, the production and detection of broadband rotational spectra have been pursued.

Studies have involved detecting and assigning the rotational spectra of several excited vibrational states of nitric acid, which is an important constituent of acid rain. These spectra have been used to refine our knowledge of the rotational constants of nitric acid and to accurately map out the dense, complex spectrum of nitric acid.

He is also an energy consultant working with Brilliant Light Power in Cranbury, New Jersey, since 2005. There he works with them on sustainable, environmentally-friendly new sources of energy.

Selected Publications

  • Randell Mills, Randy Booker, and Ying Lu, “Soft X-ray Continuum Radiation from Low-Energy Pinch Discharges of Hydrogen”, Journal of Plasma Physics, 79, Issue 5, pgs. 489-507 (2013)
  • T. M. Goyette, L. C. Oesterling, D. T. Petkie, R. A. Booker, P. Helminger, and F. C. De Lucia, "Rotational Spectrum of HNO3 in the V5 and 2V9 Vibrational States," Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 175, 395 (1996).
  • R. L. Crownover, R. A. Booker, F. C. De Lucia, and P. Helminger, "The Rotational Spectrum of Nitric Acid: The First Five Vibrational States," Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopic Radiation Transfer 40 (1), 39 (1988).
  • R. A. Booker, R. L. Crownover, F. C. DeLucia, and P. Helminger, "Millimeter and Submillimeter-Wave Spectra of the NO' Stretching Mode (V6) in Nitric Acid," Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 128, 306 (1988).
  • R. A. Booker, R. L. Crownover, F. C. De Lucia, and P. Helminger, "Millimeter and Submillimeter-Wave Spectrum of the ONO' Bending Mode (V7) in Nitric Acid," Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 128, 62 (1988).
  • R. A. Booker and F. C. De Lucia, "The Millimeter Wave Spectrum of CF2Cl2," Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy 118, 548 (1986).