Dr. Salama is a senior member of the Astrophysics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center and a founding member of Ames' Astrophysics & Astrochemistry Laboratory. Dr. Salama has pioneered the study of interstellar and planetary molecules in the laboratory in astrophysically relevant environments. Dr. Salama is expert in molecular spectroscopy and does extensive work in the areas of laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry in conjunction with ultraviolet, optical and infrared astronomy (ground-based, space-based and airborne). He has worked on planetary ices and planetary atmospheres as well as on interstellar carbon molecules and ions in galactic and extragalactic environments. Over the years, Dr. Salama has developed a variety of laboratory facilities to support NASA space missions. These unique laboratory facilities combine the techniques of matrix isolation spectroscopy, cavity ringdown spectroscopy, pulsed discharge nozzle free jet expansion and Reflectron time-of-flight mass spectrometry to produce and to study and characterize interstellar and planetary analogs. The spectra generated in the laboratory are compared to astronomical observations in the ultraviolet, the visible and the infrared obtained from telescopes and space satellites to identify new molecular species in space. Current interests include the study of the physical, chemical, and spectroscopic properties of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and carbon-containing astrophysical analogs relevant to interstellar, cometary, and planetary environments. Much of this work is centered on the study of organic molecules and ions in the interstellar medium (in particular the carriers of the diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs), the infrared emission bands and the interstellar extinction), the formation of cosmic grains from molecular precursors and the formation of organic aerosols in the atmosphere of Titan, a moon of Saturn. Recently, efforts have also been applied to the study of lunar dust in support of NASA's return to the moon.
Dr. Salama is the Chair of the American Astronomical Society's Laboratory Astrophysics Division (AAS/LAD) and the President of Commission B5 (Laboratory Astrophysics) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). He served on a study group of the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey and manages a NASA's SBIR topic on In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Lunar and Planetary Science for NASA Ames Research Center. He also acts as occasional guest Editor for Elsevier, Springer, IoP Journal of Physics B and NASA Scientific and Technical Information (STI) Program. Dr. Salama is a research advisor to the NASA postdoctoral (NPP) and graduate fellowship (GSRP, NESSF, JPFP, NSTRF) programs.
Dr. Salama is currently a Co-Investigator on sample exposure experiments onboard the International Space Station. The experiments measure the evolution of organic matter in space. Dr. Salama is also a Co-Investigator on observations with the Hubble Space Telescope aimed at detecting the ultraviolet signature of organic molecules and ions in space at energies that cannot be measured from the ground. He is also Co-Investigator on observations of extragalactic organic molecules with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO VLT).
Dr. Salama was awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (for developing a unique experimental facility in laboratory astrophysics and recognizing innovative research on the diffuse interstellar bands). He was also awarded a NASA Group Achievement Award for contributions in laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry and two Outstanding Achievement Awards from the Space Science Division at NASA Ames. He has been a fellow of the Fondation de France and of the German American Frontiers of Science program and the German American Academic Council Foundation.
Dr. Salama is a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the International Astronomy Union (IAU), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Chemical Society (ACS) and a Committee of Space Research (COSPAR) Associate.
Dr. Salama's major publications can be found on the Astrochemistry Laboratory's Publications Pages.