Postdoctoral opportunities exist to investigate the unique micro-environments provided by aqueous surfaces, interfaces and micro-droplets, and how they affect organic photochemical reactions. The proposed research includes three related approaches: (1) fundamental laboratory experiments to probe multiphase, environmentally relevant systems using surface sensitive techniques, (2) environmental chamber studies where conditions approximating the atmosphere
can be created, allowing for the assessment of the importance of interfacial chemical reactions in comparison to the better-studied bulk reactions in gas and aqueous phases, and (3) investigation of reactions confined in micro-droplets and vesicles, which will be compared with their bulk and surface counterparts.
This research has significant implications for planetary chemical processes, including on both the contemporary and prebiotic Earth. (1) The Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system, a sunlight-driven photochemical reactor, is a large and complex system, but has been altered over its existence through both natural and anthropogenic events. While gas phase chemistry has received the most attention, in this global reactor, chemistry occurs in all phases. In fact, it has long been established that heterogeneous and multiphase reactions can be extremely important for a fundamental understanding of environmental chemical reactions, which affect chemical processing, air quality, and ultimately visibility, human health, and the planet’s temperature. (2) More broadly, radiation from a planet’s host star provides energy capable of driving planetary processes, including those that increase a system’s chemical complexity. Starlight initiated reactions generate high-energy molecules that are precursors to metabolism as it has evolved in life on Earth. Experiments are designed to investigate the photochemical synthesis and reactivity of such model organic systems under conditions representative of exoplanet Earth analogues, as well as the effect of water on reactivity. Based on this photochemistry, potential spectroscopic probes will be designed for the identification of high energy species and consequently of potentially habitable environments.
To apply, please send a letter of interest, a full CV, and contact information for 2 references (one of which is the graduate advisor) to Professor Veronica Vaida, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80309-0215 or email to Vaida@colorado.edu