I am a CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University and an Affiliate Research Scientist at BMSIS. I am a planetary photochemist, interested in using the interaction of molecular systems with energetic radiation as a lens to study life as a planetary phenomenon.
My research focuses on applying photochemistry to questions related to the origin of life on Earth and the search for life on other worlds. These questions are coupled: efforts to understand the origin of life on Earth helps guide our search for it elsewhere in the cosmos, while observations of other planets help us test our theories of the prebiotic environment and of abiogenesis. To understand abiogenesis, I work to constraining the palette of environmental conditions from which life arose on Earth, to constrain and guide experimental studies of the origin of life. To search for life elsewhere, I work to determine observational tests by which life on other worlds may be remotely discriminated. In collaboration with my experimental colleagues, I work to obtain the critical measurements of fundamental photochemical parameters required to build robust models in support of both goals. Recent highlights of my research work include a revision of the theory of prebiotic nitrogen fixation, the first measurements of near-UV absorption of water vapor and exploration of its photochemical implications, and the finding that phosphine on Venus is difficult to explain.
In addition to research, I value outreach and education. I co-advised a Harvard undergraduate on his junior and senior theses, and I guided a high-school student through a research project and a top-5 finish at the Research Science Institute (RSI). I am a co-founder of the science communication workshop ComSciCon, an author emeritus for the science outreach blog Astrobites, and a peer mentor in my department. I also give public talks, write popular science articles, and assist with science outreach programs in the community.
I completed my PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Harvard University, where I was the first student to earn a certificate in Origin of Life studies. I completed my undergraduate work at MIT, where I majored in physics and minored in astronomy and history.
One day, I hope to visit this minor planet.