Image Credit: NASA/JPL/T. Pyle

Meteorites and the early solar system

Meteorites provide windows into our Solar System’s distant past, and isotopes are keys to unlocking the secrets they hold. My research uses the isotopic compositions of meteorites and their components to address questions in planetary science, with a particular focus on the evolution of the early Solar System. In particular, my research aims to identify the nucleosynthetic sources of material inherited by the protoplanetary disk during Solar System formation, assess the degree of mixing in the disk, constrain the timing of these processes, and evaluate sample origins and potential genetic relationships between parent bodies

Calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) in meteorites are refractory inclusions in meteorites are the first solids formed in the early Solar System and record the isotopic composition of an early stage of Solar System evolution. Measurement and characterization of the isotopic compositions of CAIs can help us set constraints on the nucleosynthetic sources of the material present in our early Solar System and inform our understanding of subsequent mixing processes. I am the first author of a 2019 paper, "Titanium isotope signatures of calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions from CV and CK chondrites: Implications for early Solar System reservoirs and mixing," and a 2023 paper, "Titanium and chromium isotopic compositions of calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions: Implications for the sources of isotopic anomalies and the formation of distinct isotopic reservoirs in the early Solar System," on these topics.

Another less studied group of refractory inclusions that may be genetically related to CAIs and hold important information about the early Solar System are amoeboid olivine aggregates (AOAs). I am the first author of a 2024 paper investigating the relationship between AOAs and other meteorite components based on their isotopic compositions, "A common isotopic reservoir for amoeboid olivine aggregates (AOAs) and calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) revealed by Ti and Cr isotopic compositions."

Titanium and chromium isotopes can also be used to evaluate sample origins and establish relationships between meteorite parent bodies (often in combination with oxygen isotopes), and I am the first author of a 2021 paper studying the relationship between the CM and CO chondrite groups, "The relationship between CM and CO chondrites: Insights from combined analyses of titanium, chromium, and oxygen isotopes in CM, CO, and ungrouped chondrites."

Image Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita

Sample Return Missions

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 mission returned 5.4 grams of material from C-type asteroid (162173) Ryugu in 2020. C-type asteroids have previously been linked to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites based on spectral characteristics, but direct comparisons of petrologic, chemical, and isotopic properties of meteorite and asteroid samples in the laboratory were impossible until recently. 

At the Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory, I led the first Sm and Nd isotopic measurements of Ryugu samples. This work aimed to investigate the isotopic similarities between carbonaceous chondrites and Ryugu and to evaluate the cosmic ray exposure history of Ryugu. I am the first author of the resulting 2023 paper, "Neodymium-142 deficits and samarium neutron stratigraphy of C-type asteroid (162173) Ryugu."

Image Credit: LANL

Nuclear Forensics

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, I work to develop and implement nuclear forensics related analytical methods. I am the first author of a 2024 paper, "The distinct conditions of atmospheric and underground nuclear tests revealed by Zn isotopic compositions of nuclear debris samples," that demonstrates that Zn isotopes can be used to differentiate between material from atmospheric and underground nuclear tests.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame, my work in the High Temperature Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory focused on conducting isotopic analyses of Trinitite in an effort to develop methods of source-attribution of post-detonation materials. I am a co-author of the resulting 2016 paper, "Comparative Investigation between In Situ Laser Ablation Versus Bulk Sample (Solution Mode) Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) Analysis of Trinitite Post-Detonation Materials."

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/SETI 


Europa is an icy moon of Jupiter that is considered to be one of the most promising places in our Solar System to look for environments suitable to sustain life. This is due in large part to the presence of a global subsurface liquid water ocean beneath the moon's icy shell. 

My work at Arizona State University included mapping surface microfeatures in ArcGIS and conducting statistical analyses of their spatial distribution. The goal of this work was to test existing subsurface models, construct 3D maps of Europa's shallow subsurface liquid water, and determine potential landing sites for future missions to Europa's surface. I am a co-author of the resulting 2019 paper, "Mapping Europa's microfeatures in regional mosaics: New constraints on formation models."