David R. Yarkony was born in New York City. He graduated from State University of New York at Stony Brook, with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, summa cum laude, in 1971. He received his Ph. D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975, with H. F. Schaefer III and after two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with Robert J. Silbey on temperature effects on excitons and exciton transport, he joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in 1977. He was promoted to full professor in 1984 and is currently the D. Mead Johnson Professor of Chemistry.
Professor Yarkony has been interested in nonadiabatic chemistry since 1985 when he, in collaboration with Byron Lengsfield and Paul Saxe, reported to a unique algorithm for determining the first derivative or momentum coupling for multireference configuration interactions wave function using analytic gradient techniques. This lead Yarkony, in the 1990's to develop algorithms to locate and characterize conical intersections of states of the same symmetry. These algorithms have shaped his career as he and several other groups have demonstrated that such conical intersections are ubiquitous and must be considered in any ultrafast nonadiabatic process.
More recently Yarkony has turned his attention to the effects of conical intersections on photoelectron spectra and photodissociation. Here a key issue is the accuracy of the adiabatic electronic structure data, energies, energy gradients and derivative couplings, used in the simulations. Yarkony, with Michael Schuurman (bound molecules) and Xiaolei Zhu (dissociative species) have developed algorithms to construct accurate quasi-diabatic representation of high level electronic structure data. These algorithms are having a major impact on the accuracy with which nonadiabatic processes can be simulated.