Monday, December 1, 2014

URSP Student Derek Dwyer Identifies and Studies the Spectroscopy and Chemistry of OH Radicals in Common Ices Found in the Interstellar Medium

My research project is to identify and study the spectroscopy and chemistry of OH radicals in common ices that are found in the Interstellar Medium (ISM). The ISM is the region in outer space that is between solar systems. OH is an intermediate product in the formation of water, by identifying where it occurs in a spectrum of an ice that is found in space it will, in the long run, help give us a better understanding of how water forms in space. I am experimenting with three different ices in my research O2, N2, and CO.

On a normal week I usually only get to perform one experiment. This is mainly do the fact that I have to share the lab with a graduate student. The experiments themselves take nearly an entire day to perform. This is because of the nature of the experiments that I am performing. I am replicating the environment that you would encounter in space and to do that you need vary cold temperatures and low pressures. I am working at temperatures of about 6K which is -267◦C. It takes an hour and a half to cool the cryostat down to those cold temperatures, an hour to do the background scans, an hour to do the actual experiment, and another hour to do the final scans. In total it takes about five hours to do one experiment. 
The reason that I started this project is because I am interested in physical chemistry and this project has a lot to do with physical chemistry. I also wanted to get involved with this research because it also deals with an area of chemistry that I am not very familiar with which is Astrochemistry. By doing this research it has forced me to learn a lot about an area of chemistry that is not commonly taught in an undergraduate course. I have also had to learn advanced techniques that and undergraduate student would otherwise never encounter. I feel that by getting out of my comfort zone and learning all of these new aspects of how research is done and understanding how to interpret real original results it will better prepare me for when I go on to do my graduate degree in chemistry.