Photo Credit: David Kelly Crow


Professor Emily Carter is a theorist/computational scientist first known in her independent career for her research combining ab initio quantum chemistry with molecular dynamics and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations, especially as applied to etching and growth of silicon. Later, she merged quantum mechanics, applied mathematics, and solid state physics to construct a linear scaling orbital-free density functional theory (OFDFT) that can treat unprecedented numbers of atoms quantum mechanically, embedded correlated wavefunction theories that combines quantum chemistry with periodic DFT to treat condensed matter ground and excited electronic states and strongly correlated materials (furnishing, e.g., the first ab initio view of the many-body Kondo state of condensed matter physics and treatment of charge transfer and excited states of adsorbates on surfaces), and fast algorithms for ab initio multi-reference correlated electronic wavefunction methods that permit accurate thermochemical kinetics and excited states to be predicted for large molecules. She was a pioneer in quantum-based multiscale simulations of materials that eliminate macroscopic empirical constitutive laws and that led to new insights into, e.g., shock Hugoniot behavior of iron and stress-corrosion cracking of steel. Earlier, her doctoral research furnished new understanding into homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, while her postdoctoral work presented the condensed matter simulation community with the widely used rare event sampling method known as the Blue Moon Ensemble. Her research into how materials fail due to chemical and mechanical effects furnished proposals for how to optimally protect these materials against failure (e.g., by doping, alloying, or coating). 

Her current research includes the development of efficient and accurate quantum mechanics simulation techniques such as her embedded correlated wave function and orbital-free density functional theories. She uses these and other quantum simulation techniques to enable discovery and design of materials for sustainable energy technologies, including converting sunlight to electricity and producing chemicals, fuels, and desalinated water from renewable energy.

On September 1, 2019, Professor Carter became the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, at UCLA.  As chief academic and operating officer, she works with the Chancellor and her leadership team to guide strategic planning and policy development, define budgetary and advancement priorities, and support strategic initiatives across campus and beyond. She began her academic career at UCLA in 1988, rising through the chemistry and biochemistry faculty ranks before moving to Princeton University in 2004, where she spent the next 15 years jointly appointed in mechanical and aerospace engineering and in applied and computational mathematics.  During her first stint at UCLA, she helped launch two institutes that still exist today: the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics and the California NanoSystems Institute.  While at Princeton, she held the Arthur W. Marks ’19 and the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professorships. After an international search, she was selected to be the Founding Director of Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.  She oversaw the construction of its award-winning building and state-of-the-art facilities, the development of novel educational and research programs, and the hiring of its faculty and staff.  She then served as Dean of Engineering and Applied Science from 2016-19, where she spearheaded major research, education, outreach, and diversity initiatives.  Upon her departure, she became Princeton’s first Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment, Emeritus, and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Applied and Computational Mathematics, Emeritus.  Dr. Carter maintains a very active research presence, developing and applying quantum mechanical simulation techniques to enable discovery and design of molecules and materials for sustainable energy.  Her research group is currently supported by multiple grants from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

The author of over 400 publications, Professor Carter has delivered more than 550 invited and plenary lectures worldwide and serves on advisory boards spanning a wide range of disciplines. Her scholarly work has been recognized by a number of national and international awards and honors from a variety of entities, including the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Vacuum Society, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. Among other honors, she received the 2007 ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research, was elected in 2008 to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, in 2009 was elected to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, in 2011 was awarded the August Wilhelm von Hoffmann Lecture of the German Chemical Society, in 2012 received a Docteur Honoris Causa from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in 2013 was awarded the Sigillo D’Oro (Golden Sigillum) Medal of the Italian Chemical Society, in 2014 was named the Linnett Visiting Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, in 2015 was awarded the Joseph O. Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 2016 was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, in 2017 was awarded the Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics from the American Physical Society, in 2018 was awarded the ACS Award in Theoretical Chemistry, and in 2019 was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the California Institute of Technology, a Graduate Mentoring Award from Princeton University, and the 2019 John Scott Award – the oldest science prize in the United States.

Professor Carter earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982 (graduating Phi Beta Kappa) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, followed by a brief postdoc at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Featured Honors


  • Member, European Academy of Sciences (


  • 2019 John Scott Award, Board of City Trusts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Graduate Mentoring Award, McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, Princeton University
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, California Institute of Technology


  • CME Leadership Award for Interdisciplinary Innovation, New York Section of the American Chemical Society
  • ACS Award in Theoretical Chemistry, American Chemical Society


  • Outstanding Referee of the Physical Review journals
  • Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, American Physical Society


  • Fred Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecturer, American Chemical Society
  • Member, National Academy of Engineering (


  • Joseph O. Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry, Theoretical Chemistry Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison


  • Fellow, National Academy of Inventors (
  • Ira Remsen Award, Maryland Section of the American Chemical Society, Johns Hopkins University
  • Linnett Visiting Professor of Chemistry, University of Cambridge


  • Sigillo D’Oro (Golden Sigillum) Medal, Italian Chemical Society, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy


  • Docteur Honoris Causa from L’Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL)
  • Honorary Mathematical and Physical Sciences Distinguished Lecturer, National Science Foundation


  • August Wilhelm von Hofmann Lecture Award, German Chemical Society


  • Member, International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science


  • Member, National Academy of Sciences (
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (
  • Welch Distinguished Lecturer in Chemistry


  • American Chemical Society Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research