Barber, Victoria

Short Biography

Professor Barber grew up in Westchester, New York. After high school, she attended Swarthmore College, where she majored in chemistry, with a minor in educational studies. There, she worked with Professor Josh Newby, exploring the jet-cooled spectroscopy of anethole, a natural anise derivative. She worked for a short time in the emission controls industry as a process development technician, before returning to school to complete her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was the Miller fellow in physical chemistry. There, she worked with Professor Marsha Lester, using laser spectroscopy to study the chemistry of atmospheric reactive intermediates. After completing her PhD, Prof. Barber moved to MIT, where she joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a postdoctoral researcher. There, she broadened her focus toward a more applied understanding of organic chemistry in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Research Interests

Prof. Barber’s research sits at the intersection of physical and atmospheric chemistry, with a broad focus on understanding the chemistry of reactive organic carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. Reactive organic carbon, defined as all organic molecules in the atmosphere apart from methane, is present in minute concentrations in the atmosphere, but has an outsized impact on climate and air quality. Prof. Barber’s research uses a combination of spectroscopic, mass spectrometric, and computational tools to examine the mechanisms associated with the evolution of reactive organic carbon in the atmosphere. Her work spans levels of complexity: from isolated studies of individual, elementary reaction steps, to broad analysis of the full suite of products of complex reaction networks. 

Of particular interest is the behavior of reactive intermediates; short lived, open-shell species that act as branch points in atmospheric oxidation mechanisms. The fates of these reactive intermediates, which depend on structure, chemical environment, and the presence of reaction partners, are often determinative of the overall outcome of the oxidation process. Prof. Barber and her group leverage a variety of tools to make, directly detect, predict the behavior of, and measure the products from these fundamentally interesting species, in order to understand their role in determining atmospheric composition.

The overarching goal of her research is to connect detailed reaction mechanisms to impacts on atmospheric composition, ultimately enabling better predictions of air quality and climate.

Honors & Awards

  • Participant in the Fifteenth Atmospheric Chemistry Colloquium for Emerging Senior Scientists (ACCESS XV), Brookhaven National Lab, 2019
  • Graduate Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania, 2017
  • Miller Fellowship in Physical Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, 2017-2018

Representative Publications

Below is a list of selected publications:

  1. Barber, V.P., Goss, M., Franco, L., Li, Y., Krechmer, J., Lemar, L., †Nesti, B., Keutsch, F., Kroll, J., Impacts of 222 nm germicidal UV light on indoor oxidation chemistry. In preparation. (†Undergraduate Coauthor)
  2. Barber, V.P., Lemar, L., Zheng, J.W., Li, Y., Chung, Y., Wakamatsu, K., Zaytzev, A., Hoffmann, E., Tilgner, A., Herrmann, H., Green, W.H., Keutsch, F., Kroll, J.H., Probing the multiphase chemistry of atmospheric peroxy and alkoxy radicals under high-NO conditions. In preparation.
  3. Barber, V.P., Li, Y., Keutsch, F., Kroll, J.H., New Pathways and Unexplained products in the OH-initiated Oxidation of Symmetric Ketones. In preparation.
  4. Barber, V.P.*, Kroll, J.H., Chemistry of functionalized reactive organic intermediates in the Earth’s atmosphere: impact, challenges, and progress. J. Phys. Chem. A, 2021. 125(48) 10264 (*Corresponding author)
  5. Barber, V.P.,* Green, W., Kroll, J.H. Screening for New Pathways in Atmospheric Oxidation Chemistry with Automated Mechanism Generation. J. Phys. Chem. A, 2021. 125(31) 6772
    (*Corresponding author)
  6. Ye, Q., Krechmer, J., Shutter, J., Barber, V.P., Li, Y., Helstrom, E., Franco, L., Cox, J., Hrdina, A., Goss, M., Tahsini, N., Canagarata, M., Keutsch, F., Kroll, J.H., Real time measurements of VOC emissions, removal rates, and byproduct formation from consumer-grade oxidation-based air cleaners. Env. Sci. Tech. Letters, 2021. 8(12) 1020
  7. Barber, V.P., Esposito, V.J., Trabelsi, T., †McHenry, T., Francisco, J., Lester, M.I., Experimental and computational investigation of vinoxy and 1-methylvinoxy radicals from the unimolecular decay of alkyl-substituted Criegee intermediates. Chem. Phys. Lett., 2020. 751, 137478 (†Undergraduate Coauthor)
  8. Barber, V.P., Hansen, A.S., Klippenstein, S.J., Lester, M.I., Experimental and Theoretical Studies of the Doubly Substituted Methyl-Ethyl Criegee Intermediate: Infrared Action Spectroscopy and Unimolecular Decay to OH Radical Products. J. Chem Phys., 2020. 152(9), 094301
    Featured as “Editor’s Pick” in J. Chem. Phys.
  9. Barber, V.P., Pandit, S., Esposito, V.J., McCoy, A.B., Lester, M.I., IR Action Spectroscopy of the Syn-CH3CHOO Criegee Intermediate in the Fundamental CH Stretch Region: Tunneling to OH Products. J. Phys. Chem. A. 2019. 123(13), 2559
  10. Barber, V.P., Pandit, S., Green, A.M., Trongsiriwat, N., Walsh, P.J., Klippenstein, S.J., Lester, M.I., Four Carbon Criegee Intermediate from Isoprene Ozonolysis: Methyl Vinyl Ketone Oxide Synthesis, Infrared Spectrum, and OH Production. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2018. 140(34), 10866
  11. *Green, A.M., *Barber, V.P., Fang, Y., Klippenstein, S.J., Lester, M.I. Unimolecular Decay of a Selectively Deuterated Criegee Intermediate to OD Radical Products: Importance of Tunneling. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 2017. 114(47), 12372 (*Equal contributions)
  12. Fang, Y., Barber, V.P., Klippenstein, S.J., McCoy, A.B., Lester, M.I. Tunneling Effects in the Unimolecular Decay of (CH3)2COO Criegee Intermediates to OH Radical Products. J. Chem. Phys., 2017. 146(13), 134307
    Featured as “Editor’s Pick” in J. Chem. Phys.
  13. Fang, Y., Barber, V.P., Klippenstein, S.J., McCoy, A.B., Lester, M.I. Deep Tunneling in the Unimolecular Decay of CH3CHOO Criegee Intermediates to OH Radical Products. J. Chem. Phys., 2016. 145(23), 234308
  14. Fang, Y., Liu, F., Barber, V.P., Klippenstein, S.J., McCoy, A.B., Lester, M.I. Communication: Real Time Observation of Unimolecular Decay of Criegee Intermediates to OH Radical Products. J. Chem. Phys., 2016. 114(6), 061102
  15. Barber, V.P., Newby, J.J. The Jet-Cooled Fluorescence Spectroscopy of a Natural Product: Anethole. J Phys. Chem. A, 2013. 117(48), 12831-1284