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1978-79 › Ralph Becker
1st Farfel Recipient

Department of Chemistry
Professor of Chemistry, Faculty Emeritus
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

When Professor Ralph Becker retired in 1992 after 35 years with the University of Houston, he didn’t stop working. Besides operating a bed and breakfast inn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, with his wife, he took positions with the University of Arkansas, the New University of Lisbon’s Institute of Chemistry and Biology, and the University of Perugia, Italy. He continues to teach special courses and conduct research in photophysics and photochemistry.

At UH, Professor Becker studied the molecular level changes in the first steps of the visual process. His work today is challenging long held precepts in the study of light, providing scientists with a coherent story on how molecules dispose of their excited-state energy when excited by light and verifying a model he first proposed while at UH. His expanded model provides the basis for photochemical control, while his research in Portugal in photo bio-sensitizers will create new methods for killing bacteria, fungi, viruses, and cancer cells.

Since the 1960s Professor Becker has been a visiting professor at universities throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States. In 1980 and 1981 the American Chemistry Society recognized him for his contributions to photophysics and photochemistry. The first Farfel Award recipient, Professor Becker says the prize was a significant factor pushing him toward some of the “quantum jumps” in his research. Quantum leaps require one to “think more fundamentally than with the analytical mind,” he explains. “It requires curiosity, intuition, and the intense desire to really know what’s going on. It requires the confidence to believe that it is possible to achieve.”

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