Research

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. During my Ph.D. research in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at Arizona State University, I measured the isotopic compositions of meteorites and their components to address outstanding questions in planetary science, with a particular focus on the dynamics and evolution of the early Solar System. This work involved extensive method development for the chemical separation and purification of elements of interest using column chromatography, sample characterization using the electron probe microanalyzer (EPMA), and measurement of isotopic ratios using the multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICPMS).

Calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) 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 recent paper, "Titanium isotope signatures of calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions from CV and CK chondrites: Implications for early Solar System reservoirs and mixing."

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/SETI

Europa

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 in the Rhoden Research Group at ASU involved 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. We recently published a paper, "Mapping Europa's microfeatures in regional mosaics: New constraints on formation models."

Image Credit: LANL

Nuclear Forensics

Trinitite is a glassy material formed following the detonation of the Trinity nuclear bomb test on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico as the result of fusion of the desert sand, bomb, and test site components due to the high temperature and shock wave of the detonation.

As an undergraduate 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 on the resulting 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."