The Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is presenting its 2022 Early Career Award to Professor Kyle Crabtree of the University of California Davis. The award recognizes his use of high-resolution spectroscopy to study reactive molecules of astrophysical interest. 

LAD’s Early Career Award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to the field within 10 years of receiving a PhD. Prof. Crabtree has established a unique career at the intersection of molecular laboratory astrophysics, astronomical observations, and astrochemical modeling. 


Throughout his career, Prof. Crabtree has constructed a variety of instruments in the laboratory to enable the study of exotic molecules that play a role in the chemistry of the interstellar medium and star-forming regions. As a PhD student he built and used infrared laser spectrometers to study reactions involving the triatomic ion H3+, and since then he has developed microwave-based spectrometers combined with electrical discharges that have led to the discovery of a number of new molecules. His group currently studies the role that free radicals play in the formation of prebiotic molecules in space and is also developing new infrared techniques for measuring these radicals in the laboratory. In addition to his experimental work, Prof. Crabtree’s research employs quantum chemical calculations to compute important molecular properties that describe how molecules behave in space, including the dissociation of small molecules by ultraviolet light. Results from these experimental and computational investigations provide data that improve models of the chemistry surrounding star formation and aid in the interpretation of astronomical observations. 

Prof. Crabtree received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2012 under the supervision of Benjamin McCall. In 2012, he received a CfA Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, working with Michael McCarthy. Dr. Crabtree joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of California Davis as an Assistant Professor in 2014 where he is now an Associate Professor. Prof. Crabtree received a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (2011), a Hellman Fellowship (2016), and an NSF CAREER award (2021). His current work is supported by NASA and NSF.

The LAD Early Career Award includes a cash award, a framed certificate, and an invited lecture by the recipient at a meeting of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division.


Phillip C. Stancil 

LAD Past Chair 

Department of Physics and Astronomy 

University of Georgia 

+1 (706) 542-2485 


Rachel L. Smith 

LAD Secretary 

NC Museum of Natural Sciences 

Department of Physics and Astronomy 

Appalachian State University 

+1 (919) 707-8239 


Kyle Crabtree 

Department of Chemistry 

University of California Davis  

+1 (530) 752-6024 


The AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD, advances our understanding of the universe through the promotion of fundamental theoretical and experimental research into the underlying processes that drive the cosmos. 


The American Astronomical Society (AAS) (, established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.