The regions around forming stars are host to a surprisingly rich chemistry, leading to the production of molecules both familiar and exotic. The synthesis of relatively large organic molecules in star-forming regions is especially exciting because planets are born alongside stars, raising the possibility that astrochemically produced organics could seed nascent planets with ingredients for origins of life chemistry. More broadly, chemistry along the star- and planet-formation sequence has wide-ranging impacts on the compositions and properties of newly formed planetary systems. Our group uses a variety of tools to explore this astrochemistry.
With cryogenic vacuum experiments we mimic the extremely low temperatures and pressures of star-forming regions in the lab, enabling us to test the chemical and microphysical behavior of volatile ices in these exotic conditions.
We use telescopes like ALMA and JWST to observe the spectral fingerprints of volatile molecules in protostars and protoplanetary disks, providing insight into the chemical landscape of planet formation and the underlying physical processes which drive astrochemical evolution.
We develop simulations to understand how the volatile chemistry is influenced by the dynamic redistribution of material within planet-forming disks.