The Genesis Projects: Laboratory Studies in Molecular Astrophysics from the First Star to the Beginnings of Organic Chemistry

Speaker:Professor Daniel Savin
Affiliation:Columbia University
Organizer:Eric Akkerman and Ehud Behar
Location:Lidow Rosen Auditorium (323)

Interstellar chemistry plays an important role in the evolution of the
universe from the dark ages to the formation of life.  I will discuss
two particularly important links in this chain of chemical reactions.
The first is the formation of H2 in the early universe.  Uncertainties
in this process limit our ability to reliably model the formation of the
first stars.  The other link we study is the start of the cosmic
pathway to life which begins in interstellar gas clouds where atomic
carbon is "fixed" into molecules, thereby initiating the synthesis of
the complex organic molecules that are eventually sequestered on
planets.  These reactions initiate not only the formation of organic
molecules in the cosmos, but also provide some of the first threads
knitting together atoms and molecules into solid material.  Such
processes are critical for the eventual formation of planets and may
determine a major component of the organic chemistry that is present on
their young surfaces.  I will briefly review these motivations for our
research and explain how we reproduce the relevant reactions through
laboratory experiments.