Mark Muyskens

Mark Muyskens


  • BS, Central College, 1982
  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Physical Chemistry, 1989

Thesis: Vibrational and Rotational Energy Transfer: Relaxation of HF and DF by He, H2, D2, HF, DF and N2
Advisor: Professor F. Fleming Crim

Professional History

  • Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, Calvin University, 2012—2015
  • Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1997—present
  • Visiting Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL); Lausanne, Switzerland, 2019
  • Visiting Scientist, University of California, Riverside, 2002—2003
  • Visiting Scientist, Columbia University, 1995—1996
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1993—1997
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1989—1993


Prof. Muyskens grew up in New Jersey and received his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Central College in Pella, IA, and his  Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the mentorship of F. Fleming Crim. His thesis work focused on energy transfer in IR-laser excited hydrogen fluoride and deuterium fluoride gas using a chemical laser to monitor the time-dependent exchange of energy. He began his teaching career at Calvin University (formerly "College") where his research interests have focused on the interaction of light and molecules. He has enjoyed sabbaticals that have taken him to New York City, Riverside, CA, and Lausanne, Switzerland. Prof. Muyskens enjoys working in the laboratory on research experiments, computer modeling calculations or improving the teaching of physical chemistry laboratory. He also enjoys reading, doing puzzles, photography, and being outdoors, doing activities such as  hiking, running, and biking.

Academic interests

  • Photochemistry of fluorine containing molecules
  • Fluorescence in natural products


Research and scholarship

We are using a laser-based photochemical technique to study the elimination of hydrogen fluoride (HF) from fluorine containing organic molecules in the gas phase.  Our focus recently has been on two molecules, formyl fluoride and  trifluoroacetylacetone, which give remarkably different results.  The goal is to learn fundamental details about how ultraviolet laser-excited molecules fall apart.  Our infrared laser probe technique gives us information about how much vibrational and rotational energy is released into the HF molecule produced in the reaction.  Ultimately, our experimental data is used to test theoretical approaches to modeling these kinds of light-based reactions.

Our laser-based photochemical technique allows us to study the elimination of hydrogen fluoride (HF) from fluorine containing organic molecules in the gas phase. We will continue our investigation of two molecules, formyl fluoride and trifluoroacetylacetone, which give remarkably different results. This summer represents a unique opportunity to use a new, NSF-funded, tunable laser system, which greatly expands our ability to use ultraviolet laser pulses to initiate chemical reactions. The summer work continues our ongoing research program investigating photoelimination. Students working with us on the experiment will gain experience in gas synthesis and gas handling, several types of lasers, data acquisition, analysis and modeling. As part of the training the Calvin student(s), along with other students in our research consortium, will be trained in use of the new laser system by Purdue University laser specialist Hartmut Hedderich. The student(s) will also have an opportunity to meet with the other research groups in the consortium, possibly including a trip to Purdue University.


Undergraduate authors listed in bold font

  1. Eduardo Carrascosa, Robert P. Pellegrinelli, Thomas R. Rizzo, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Cryogenic Infrared Action Spectroscopy Fingerprints the Hydrogen Bonding Network in Gas-Phase Coumarin Cations”. J. Phys. Chem. A DOI:10.1021/acs.jpca.0c06430. 2020
  2. Hunter Pham, Joy Yoo, Michael VandenBerg, and Mark Muyskens, “Fluorescence of Scopoletin Including its Photoacidity and Large Stokes Shift”. J. Fluorescence 30, 71–80. 2020.
  3. Janice Wharton, Isaac Izaguirre, Alayna Surdock, Michael VandenBerg, Shane Bolhuis, Joshua Howard, Mark Muyskens, “Hands-on Demonstration of Natural Substance Fluorescence in Simple Tree Extracts: Sycamore”. J. Chem. Educ., 95 (4), 615–619. 2018.
  4. Kyle R Disselkoen, Joel R Alsum, Timothy A Thielke, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Photochemistry of UV-excited Trifluoroacetylacetone and Hexafluoroacetylacetone II: Quantum Yield and Rate Constants of Hydrogen Fluoride Photoelimination Forming Fluorinated Methylfuranones,” Chemical Physics Letters, 672, 112–118. 2017.
  5. Brett De Vries and Mark A. Muyskens, “Fluorine Atom Influence on Intramolecular Hydrogen Bonding, Isomerization and the HF Photoelimination Mechanism,” Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, 1097, 15–24. 2016.


  • "Photoacidity in bioactive, natural coumarins" - Calvin Research Fellowship, research leave for January 2021 interim term 
  • “RUI: Photoacidity in bioactive, natural coumarins,” - NSF- RUI Grant, 2020 (Award ID 1956223), Start date: 15 Aug 2020.
  • Mentor to Beckman Scholar, 2020, Summer 2020, Academic Year 2020-21, & Summer 2021.

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