I specialize in developing new tracers for Earth system cycles.

These tracers bring fresh perspectives to chronically intractable systems such as atmospheric circulation, biosphere productivity, and nutrient cycling in a changing world. By continually challenging our Earth-system models with improved empirical constraints on natural processes, I hope we can improve predictions of how the Earth system will change in the future.

My work often starts out as nothing more than ideas sketched out on paper, but part of what I love about science is going into the lab (and the field) to test them out. I would rather be wrong than not experiment, because sometimes nature surprises you!


I am an assistant professor of Earth Science at Rice University. My research focuses on Earth's atmosphere, its chemistry, and how the solid Earth and life affect it. I use stable isotopes—naturally-occurring tags on molecules—to trace the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and the action of biological cycles at the surface. In 2016, I was awarded the F. W. Clarke award from the Geochemical Society for my work on isotope "clumping," a general way to trace how chemical bonds are transformed in natural systems. I was also awarded a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Science & Engineering Fellowship in 2017.

My expertise also includes public engagement in science: I was a founding producer for PHD TV and have made award-winning science video content for both offline and online audiences. I also worked previously with the Board on Life Sciences at the National Research Council on science communication. Currently, I serve on the water quality steering committee for the Galveston Bay Foundation. I received my B.A. in chemistry from Oberlin College and Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

Email: lyeung@rice.edu

Laurence Yeung (Image: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Laurence Yeung (Image: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Academic Background

  • Assistant Professor, Rice University 2015 -

  • Assistant Researcher, UCLA 2013 - 2018

  • NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA 2011 - 2013

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, USC 2010

  • Ph.D., California Institute of Technology 2010

  • B.A. with Highest Honors, Oberlin College 2004

  • Download full CV

Additional Experience




  1. Yeung, L. Y. and J. M. Eiler, “Concepts in clumped-isotope geochemistry,” in Handbook of Isotopologue Biogeochemistry (eds. N. Yoshida, A. Gilbert, and J. Foriel): SpringerNature, London, UK.
  2. Yeung, L. Y., “Photochemical and biological tracers from clumped isotopes in O2 and N2,” in Handbook of Isotopologue Biogeochemistry (eds. N. Yoshida, A. Gilbert, and J. Foriel): SpringerNature, London, UK.
  3. Condit, C. B., M. E. French, J. A. Hayles, L. Y. Yeung, and C. T. A. Lee, “Fluid sources and stress state at the base of the subduction seismogenic zone,” in revision for Geochemistry, Geophysics Geosystems.
  4. Ash, J. L., H. Hu, and L. Y. Yeung, "What fractionates oxygen isotopes during respiration? Insights from multiple isotopologues and theory," in review at ACS Earth and Space Chemistry. EarthArXiv preprint.
  5. Hayles, J. A., L. Y. Yeung, M. Homann, B. Shen, A. Banerjee, H. Jiang, and C. T. A. Lee, “Three-billion-year secular evolution of the triple oxygen isotope composition of marine chert," in review at Earth and Planetary Science Letters. EarthArXiv preprint 10.31223/osf.io/n2p5q.
  1. Yeung, L. Y., L. T. Murray, P. A. Martinerie, H. Hu, A. Banerjee, E. Witrant, A. Orsi, and J. Chappellaz, “Isotopic constraint on the twentieth-century increase in tropospheric ozone,” Nature 570 (2019) 224-227. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1277-1.
  2. Yeung, L. Y., J. A. Haslun, N. E. Ostrom, T. Sun, E. D. Young, M. A. H. J. van Kessel, S. Lücker, and M. S. M. Jetten, "In situ quantification of biological N2 production using naturally occurring 15N15N," Environ. Sci. Technol. 53 (2019) 5168-5175. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b00812.
  3. Li, B., L. Y. Yeung, H. Hu, and J. L. Ash, "Kinetic and equilibrium fractionation of O2 isotopologues during air-water gas transfer and implications for tracing oxygen cycling in the ocean," Mar. Chem. 210 (2019) 61-71. doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2019.02.006
  1. Yeung, L. Y., J. A. Hayles, H. Hu, J. L. Ash, and T. Sun, “Scale distortion from pressure baselines as a source of inaccuracy in triple-isotope measurements,” Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 32 (2018) 1811-1821. doi: 10.1002/rcm.8247
  1. Yeung, L. Y., "Low oxygen and argon in the Neoproterozoic atmosphere at 815 Ma," Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 480 (2017) 66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.09.044
  2. Yeung., L. Y., S. Li, I. E. Kohl, J. A. Haslun, N. E. Ostrom, H. Hu, E. A. Schauble, T. P. Fischer, and E. D. Young, “Extreme enrichment in atmospheric 15N15N,” Sci. Adv. 3 (2017) eaao6741. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6741
  3. Young, E. D., I. E. Kohl, B. Sherwood Lollar, G. Etiope, D. Rumble III, S. Li, M. A. Haghnegahdar, E. A. Schauble, K. A. McCain, D. I. Foustoukus, C. Sutclife, O. Warr, C. J. Ballentine, T. C. Onstott, H. Hosgormez, A. Neubeck, J. M. Marques, I. Pérez-Rodríguez, A. R. Rowe, D. E. LaRowe, C. Magnabosco, L. Y. Yeung, J. L. Ash, and L. T. Bryndzia, “The relative abundances of resolved 12CH2D2 and 13CH3D and mechanisms controlling isotopic bond ordering in abiotic and biotic methane gases,” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 203 (2017), 235-264. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2016.12.041
  1. Yeung, L. Y., L. T. Murray, J. L. Ash, E. D. Young, K. A. Boering, E. L. Atlas, S. M. Schauffler, R. A. Lueb, R. L. Langenfelds, P. B. Krummel, L. P. Steele, and S. D. Eastham, “Isotopic ordering in atmospheric O2 as a tracer of ozone photochemistry and the tropical atmosphere,” J. Geophys. Res. 121 (2016): 12,541-12,559. doi: 10.1002/ 2016JD025455
  2. Lee, C. T. A., L. Y. Yeung, R. McKenzie, Y. Yokoyama, K. Ozaki, and A. Lenardic, “Two-step rise in atmospheric oxygen linked to the emergence of continents,” Nature Geosci. 9 (2016): 417-424. doi: 10.1038/ngeo2707
  3. Yeung, L. Y.,“Combinatorial effects on clumped isotopes and their significance in biogeochemistry,” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 172 (2016): 22-38. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.09.020
  1. Yeung, L. Y., J. L. Ash, and E. D. Young, “Biological signatures in clumped isotopes of O2,” Science 348 (2015), 431-434. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa6284. Equal contributions
  2. Yeung, L. Y., W. M. Berelson, D. E. Hammond, M. G. Prokopenko, C. Wolfe, and N. Rollins, “Upper-ocean gas dynamics from radon profiles in the Eastern Tropical South Pacific,” Deep-Sea Res. Pt. I. 99 (2015), 35-45. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2015.01.008.
2003 - 2014
  1. Yeung, L. Y., J. L. Ash, and E. D. Young, “Rapid photochemical equilibration of isotopic bond ordering in O2,” J. Geophys. Res. 119 (2014), D021909. doi: 10.1002/2014JD021909.
  2. Young, E. D., L. Y. Yeung, and I. E. Kohl, “On the Δ17O budget of atmospheric O2,” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 135 (2014), 102-125. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.03.026
  3. Yeung, L. Y., E. D. Young, and E. A. Schauble, “Measurements of 18O18O and 17O18O in the atmosphere and the influence of isotope-exchange reactions,” J. Geophys. Res. 117 (2012): D18306. doi: 10.1029/2012JD017992
  4. Yeung, L. Y., M. Okumura, J. Zhang, T. K. Minton, J. T. Paci, A. Karton, J. M. L. Martin, J. P. Camden, and G. C. Schatz, "O(3P) + CO2 collisions at hyperthermal energies: Dynamics of inelastic scattering, oxygen isotope exchange, and oxygen-atom abstraction," J. Phys. Chem. A. 116 (2012): 64-84. doi: 10.1021/jp2080379
  5. Yeung, L. Y., W. M. Berelson, E. D. Young, M. G. Prokopenko, N. Rollins, V. J. Coles, J. P. Montoya, E. J. Carpenter, D. K. Steinberg, R. A. Foster, D. G. Capone, and P. L. Yager, “Impact of diatom-diazotroph assemblages on carbon export in the Amazon river plume,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 39 (2012): L18609. doi: 10.1029/2012GL053356
  6. Prokopenko, M. G., O. Paulius, J. Granger, and L. Y. Yeung, “Exact evaluation of gross photosynthetic production from the oxygen triple-isotope composition of O2: Implications for the net-to-gross primary production ratios,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 38 (2011): L14603. doi: 10.1029/2011GL047652
  7. Huntington, K. W., J. M. Eiler, H. P. Affek, W. Guo, M. Bonafacie, L. Y. Yeung, N. Thiagarajan, B. Passey, A. Tripati, M. Daëron, R. Came, "Methods and limitations of 'clumped' CO2 isotope (Δ47) analysis by gas source isotope ratio mass spectrometry," J. Mass Spectrom. 44 (2009): 1318-1329. doi: 10.1002/jms.1002
  8. Yeung, L. Y., H. P. Affek, K. J. Hoag, W. Guo, A. A. Wiegel, E. L. Atlas, S. M. Schauffler, M. Okumura, K. A. Boering, and J. M. Eiler, "Large and unexpected enrichment in stratospheric 16O13C18O and its meridional variation," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106 (2009): 11496-11501. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0902930106; Erratum Equal contributions
  9. Robichaud, D. J., L. Y. Yeung, D. L. Long, M. Okumura, D. K. Havey, J. T. Hodges, C. E. Miller, and L. R. Brown, "Experimental Line Parameters of the b1Σg+ ← X3Σg- Band of Oxygen Isotopologues at 760 nm Using Frequency-Stabilized Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy,"; J. Phys. Chem. A 113 (2009): 13089-13099. doi: 10.1021/jp901127h
  10. Yeung, L. Y., M. Okumura, J .T. Paci, G. C. Schatz, J. Zhang, and T.K. Minton, "Hyperthermal O-Atom Exchange Reaction O2 + CO2 through a CO4 Intermediate," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131 (2009): 13940-13942. doi: 10.1021/ja903944k
  11. Robichaud, D. J., J. T. Hodges, P. Maslowski, L. Y. Yeung, M. Okumura, C. E. Miller, and L. R. Brown, "High-Accuracy Transition Frequencies for the O2 A-Band," J. Mol. Spec. 251 (2008): 27-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jms.2007.12.008
  12. Robichaud, D.J., J. T. Hodges, L. R. Brown, D. Lisak, P. Maslowski, L. Y. Yeung, M. Okumura, and C. E. Miller, "Experimental intensity and line shape parameters of the oxygen A-band using frequency-stabilized cavity ring-down spectroscopy," J. Mol. Spec. 248 (2008): 1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jms.2007.10.010
  13. Yeung, L. Y., M. J. Pennino, A. M. Miller, and M. J. Elrod, "Kinetics and mechanistic studies of the atmospheric oxidation of alkynes," J. Phys. Chem. A 109 (2005): 1879-1889. doi: 10.1021/jp0454671
  14. Babonneau, F., L. Yeung, N. Steunou, C. Gervais, A. Ramilia, and M. Vallet-Regi, "Solid state NMR characterization of encapsulated molecules in mesopourus silica," J. Sol-Gel Sci. Techn. 31 (2004): 219-223. doi: 10.1023/B:JSST.0000047991.73840.8b
  15. Miller, A. M., L. Y. Yeung, A. C. Kiep, and M. J. Elrod. "Overall rate constant measurements of the reactions of alkene-derived peroxy radicals with nitric oxide," Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 6 (2004): 3402-3409. doi: 10.1039/b402011j
  16. Yeung, L. Y. and M. J. Elrod. "Experimental and computational study of the kinetics of OH + pyridine and its methyl and ethyl-substituted derivatives," J. Phys. Chem. A 107 (2003): 4470-4477. doi: 10.1021/jp027389s