Ph.D. University of British Columbia, 1975
Areas of Focus:
Peter Beckmann was born and raised in the lumber mills and hockey rinks of New Westminster, near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He did his B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. in the Physics Department at the University of British Columbia. His principal thesis work involved using gas phase nuclear magnetic resonance relaxation techniques to better understand the quantum mechanical rotational structure of the methane molecule and the effects of collisions. He did a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Nottingham, England where he looked for Robin Hood and Maid Marian and studied the quantum mechanical tunneling of intramolecular atomic groups at low temperatures using electron spin and nuclear spin relaxation techniques. He joined the Physics Department at Bryn Mawr College in 1977 where he studies the relationship between structure and motion in solids using solid state nuclear spin-lattice relaxation techniques. He also enjoys teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. When he is not teaching or doing research, he can be found in a local pub drinking Guinness and watching hockey games.
Current Research Interests
In the Physics Department at Bryn Mawr College we study intramolecular rotation of methyl (CH3) and fluoromethyl (CF3) groups in organic van der Waals solids. We perform variable-temperature (77–370 K) and variable-frequency (8.50, 22.5, and 53.0 MHz) solid state 1H (proton) and 19F (fluorine) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spin-lattice relaxation experiments to investigate intramolecular motion in these systems. When both F and H atoms are present in a compound, we can exploit the complex interactions between unlike spin-½ particles using both 1H and 19F NMR relaxation. We also study the complex, geared, and superimposed motions of tertiarybutyl groups [C(CH3)3] and their constituent CH3 groups. The distinguishing feature of the experiments is the very low NMR frequencies needed in the nuclear spin relaxation experiments to investigate the motions. The goal is to develop complete and consistent molecule-independent models for the intramolecular motions in these systems and determine how these motions relate to the molecular and crystal structure. Our work is complemented by the work of others doing compound synthesis and purification, electronic structure calculations, field emission scanning electron microscopy, single-crystal X-ray diffraction, powder x-ray diffraction, differential scanning calorimetry, and high-resolution 1H and 19F NMR spectroscopy.