I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University.
I completed my undergraduate MSci degree in Physics (1996 - 2000) and and then a PhD in Laboratory Molecular Physics at University College London (2000 - 2003). I then joined the The Open University as a Postdoctoral Research Associate (2000 - 2006) in the department of Physics and Astronomy, applying Experimental Molecular Physics to Astrochemistry and helped set up the Astrochemistry Laboratory that has now become the Molecular Astrophysics Lab. In 2006 I embarked on a 7-year career break, becoming a mother to three children (2006 - 2013).
In 2013 I returned to research at the Shchool of Physical Sciences at the OU 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 securing a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (October 2016 - Present), continuing my work in laboratory astrophysics.
My research interests are in Experimetnal Molecular Physics applied to Astrophysical enviromnents. 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
I am currently developing a remote experiment to probe gas samples representing planetary atmospheres, using infrared spectroscopy, as part of the (SXPS288) "Remote experiments in physics and space" module team... soon to come!
I was a physicist on the module team for the Level 1 Module (S111) "Questions in Science" (2016-2018)
I was a Topic Specialist on the Level 2 Module (SXPA 288) "Practical Science: Physics and Astronomy"(2016-2018)
|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.
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