I am a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University. I did my undergraduate MSci degree in Physics at University College London (1996 - 2000) and my PhD in the Molecular Physics Lab at University College London (2000 - 2003). I then joined the Astrochemistry Group at The Open University as a Postdoctoral Research Associate (2000 - 2006). I then embarked on a career break with the arrival of my first child in 2007 and had a 6-year break becoming a mother to three children (2007 - 2013). In 2013 I returned to research, re-joining the rapidly growing Astrochemistry Group at the Shchool of Physical Science after being successful in obtaining a Daphne Jackson Fellowship (2013-2016), co-sponsored by the Open University and Science and Technology Facilities Council, enabling me to re-train and refresh my skills and regain confidence as a researcher, allowing me to work part-time whilst looking after my young family. Towards the end of the three years, the tailor-made Daphne Jackson re-training programme paid off as I was successful in being awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (starting October 2016), continuing my work in laboratory astrochemistry.
My research interests are in Laboratory Astrochemistry. I simulate cold space environments such as dense molecular clouds from which stars form, protoplanetary discs around baby stars or icy surfaces of Outer Solar System bodies under conrtolled laboraory conditions to study the chemical and physical properties of cosmic ice analogues. My specific interests are:
Snowflakes 'grown' and levitated in the ultrasonic trap for containerless investigation of their optical properties.
Icy soot aggregates grown in the ultrasonic trap as analogues of icy dust particles in star-forming regions of space
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Sep/2016||31/May/2020||LEVERHULME The Leverhulme Trust|
Microscopic icy dust particles in the interstellar medium play a crucial role in molecular synthesis and star and planet formation. Laboratory data is essential for interpretation of astronomical spectra and for building accurate astrochemical models. However most laboratory ices are grown on large (cm-sized) flat substrates, unrepresentative of microscopic 3D fractal-like interstellar grains. Evidence suggests that particle size, structure and composition may profoundly influence the physico-chemical properties of ice. I will exploit novel laboratory techniques, by developing a unique acoustic trap to form and trap microscopic icy dust particles as realistic interstellar icy grain analogues and investigate their physico-chemical properties and aggregation using infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopy and compare to observations. This work has the potential to resolve key Astrochemistry questions that have persisted for decades, whilst bringing together core strands of physics, chemistry and astronomy.