Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Dr Sabrina Gaertner

Dr Sabrina Gaertner

Professional biography




PhD in physics within the “Bonn Cologne Graduate School of Physics and Astronomy” at the University of Cologne:

Thesis title: “Influence of Internal States on Ion-Molecule Reactions in a Temperature Variable 22-Pole Ion Trap - Spectroscopy and Reaction Kinetics”


Diploma in physics at the University of Cologne:

Thesis title: “Charakterisierung einer Ionen-Wolke in einem kalten 22-Pol Ionenspeicher”

Area of specialization: laboratory astrophysics

Elective subjects: general analytical chemistry, physical chemistry



Since 2014

Open University - Laboratory Astrochemistry:

Understanding planet formation: Investigation of microgravity collisions (dust and ice aggregates between 80 and 300 K).

Porosity of instellar ice: Neutron scattering experiments to understand the structural properties of interstellar ice analogues.

2007 - 2014

University of Cologne - Laboratory Astrophysics:

Deuterium fractionation: Reaction dynamics and spectroscopy of small hydrogen (H3+ isotologues) and hydrocarbon ions (CH3+, C2H2+ isotologues) that are key to the observed enhancement of deuterium in interstellar molecules, using a temperature variable 22-pole ion trap.



Since 2014

Open University:

Tutor for lecture on practical science

regularly presentations and workshops in different public outreach events

2005 - 2014

University of Cologne:

Tutor for different lectures and lab courses, lab course coordination

regularly presentations and experiments in different public outreach events

Research Activity

Externally funded projects

60 Second Adventures in Microgravity

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Nov/201531/Mar/2016UKSA UK Space Agency
What is microgravity? Why do scientists use it? Our overarching aim is to produce a series of short, humorous and factual videos, called "60 Second Adventures in Microgravity", aimed at a broad audience of children and adults, to enable them to understand why the UK is involved in microgravity research, what UK scientists do in microgravity research, and how this work benefits our everyday lives. The proposal is based on the OU 60 seconds series, produced by applicant Catherine Chambers, which has covered a number of subject areas. The series started with series of outstandingly successful animated short-form videos for the web - on the history of English, narrated by Clive Anderson, e.g. (600,000 hits on YouTube). This was followed by Sixty Second Adventures in Thought (see stills in additional material), narrated by the comedian David Mitchell, covering philosophical topics (see e.g., over 30,000 hits in just one month). Theseave more than three million views in total to date. More recently, this was extended to astronomy, planetary science and particle physics, again narrated by David Mitchell and funded by STFC. This work will build on this successful formula to generate a novel Sixty Second Adventures in Microgravity, promoting the interests of UKSA and the UK ELIPS scientific community to the general public. The remaining 3 applicants BR, SG and HJF all are involved in current ELIPS research projects. We propose to produce 4 episodes; Microgravity - what is it?: This first video will aim to explain to the audience, what microgravity is - starting from a sketch of the Earth with a cable going to a big switch, and flicking the switch (to switch gravity off) which makes everybody / everything float away. Obviously we cannot turn gravity off, but we need to recreate conditions of "free-fall" so that from the frame of reference within the "microgravity" environment can be recreated. The video will explain the ways we can do this, focusing on ground-based microgravity platforms. Parabolic Flights: fancy getting sick whilst doing your science? Hurtling towards the Earth in an aeroplane? That's what OU scientists do...How do we build planets? Scientists don't know, but they test how the building blocks of Solar systems form by having a great big, slow-motion snowball fight - OK not really - but they use microgravity platforms to collide ice particles with each other. These ELIPS based experiments show that "traffic jam" effects are more important in planet-forming disks than collisions themselves. This will be the one video based on existing OU expertise in ELIPS research. Understanding the aging population: Bed-rest is another way to exploit the "microgravity environment". Imagine sleeping almost upside down for 6 months and being paid for it... luxury - but why do scientists want people to do that? With an ever aging population, issues of poor blood circulation, osteoporosis and muscle wasting are important to understand so that we can maintain the health and wellbeing of the older generation (as well as medical rehabilitation patients e.g. long-term injury patients such as car-crash victims or members of the armed services). Cell Biology: Space might not be the first place to think about biology - given that it's a vast empty expanse of vacuum, and it's still not clear where life originates. But microgravity research shows us cells are pretty clever - they realise in microgravity there isn't an up or down, they change on a molecular level to adapt to the microgravity environment. The basic signalling systems in cell biology are the same systems that result in muscle degradation and cell changes in microgravity environments. And when one tests the resilience of microbes to the space environments - only those with certain genes and protein sequences survive...a kind of survival of the space fittest? And a clue where we come from? Perhaps.

Meet our Academics

Head and shoulders of male OU academic

In addition to teaching on Open University modules our academics are engaged in ground breaking research that benefits individuals and society.

Request your prospectus

Request a prospectus icon

Explore our qualifications and courses by requesting one of our prospectuses today.

Request prospectus

Are you already an OU student?

Go to StudentHome