As a graduate student in the geophysical sciences, my research has an emphasis in cosmochemistry. Using resonance ionization mass spectrometry (RIMS) with CHILI (pictured below) I measure the isotopic composition of Molybdenum, Ruthenium, and Barium in presolar graphite. Presolar grains originate from the outbursts and ejecta of stars late in their evolution, such as asymptotic branch (AGB) stars, supernovae (SNe), as well as novae. These grains can be found in samples returned to Earth by spacecraft or by nature, like primitive meteorites, interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), and cometary dust returned by NASA's Stardust mission. Different classes of grains represent different classes of stars, each of which contains the nucleosynthetic history of a particular through it's isotopic record having survived the hazardous interstellar medium and solar nebular environments. I am also interested in analyzing hibonite, an oxide mineral commonly found in the "CAIs" (Ca-, Al-rich inclusions) prevalent in some chondritic meteorites, which is known to preserve the largest nucleosynthetic anomalies of all materials presumed to have formed within the Solar System that have circumvented nebular processes that would have otherwise erased any isotopic heterogeneity. By studying these hib-rich inclusions we have the potential to determine crucial constraints that could very well answer questions regarding what stellar sources contributed nucleosynthetic components to the solar nebula, whether all components were present when the solar nebula first formed, what the relationship between nucleosynthetic anomalies prior to onset of nebular homogenization processes was like, and whether nebular processes affected different nucleosynthetic components in different ways.
My undergraduate research concentrated on the potassium isotopic composition of meteorites including ordinary chondrites, carbonaceous chondrites, and Martian meteorites. I sought to determine the potassium isotopic composition as it's moderately volatile characteristics reveal clues in to the Early Solar System's history specifically by implicating depletion trends which correspond to various solar nebula and parent body processes. While the bulk of my research has been with meteorite samples as insights into the origin and history of our Solar System particularly the Earth and Mars, I hope to broaden my studies by utilizing other isotopes as tracers for planetary formation in other planetary materials and bodies in our Solar System.
An Antarctic meteorite prior to dissolution (Left). Drying down samples after undergoing the first run of column chromatography to elute pure potassium for MC-ICP-MS measurements (Right).