What We're Thinking About

Lifecycle of Carbon in the Universe

As much as 25% of all interstellar carbon is thought to be locked into large aromatic molecules. How these species are formed, destroyed, and incorporated into other molecules, and how these processes are tied to those of star- and planet-formation, are major open questions.

Linking Astrochemistry to Astrobiology

How far does chemistry advance in the interstellar medium before it is incorporated into planets, forming the molecular feedstock from which life arises? Are amino acids made first in space and delivered intact, or is the molecular reservoir largely reduced to simple molecules like HCN?

Cosmic Origins of Biological Homochirality

All life on earth uses a single enantiomer (handedness) of most chiral molecules in biology. While random thermal fluctuations or heterogenous catalysis at mineral surfaces are possible explanations for the selection, so is the inheritance of initial seed excess from space. How, where, and why is this interstellar excess generated, and what are the implications for life elsewhere?

Statistics and Machine Learning

Instrument time, both in the laboratory and on telescopes, is inherently limited. We are actively exploring new combinations of signal processing, statistics, automation, and machine learning to not only extract the maximum possible information from our data, but also to more intelligently design the experiments themselves.