The Nuts in a Nutshell


We are a diverse group of people whose work centers on the formation of the chemical elements and on the question of how the solar system originated and evolved.

What Interests Us?Research.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0

We study how the elements originated in stars, how stars produce solid matter (stardust), and how this matter got from stars into the primordial cloud of gas and dust from which our solar system formed. We also study what happened to this material once it coalesced into the larger bodies that are the sun, the planets, comets and asteroids. We are interested in the earliest history of the solar system - how the material from which it formed was produced, how it evolved with time, and precisely when and where these evolutionary events took place.

What do we study?Presolar_Grain_Research.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0

We specialize in the detailed and precise laboratory analysis of very small samples (microanalysis). We analyze specks of stardust and mineral grains from meteorites, as well particles from comets and the moon. Paradoxically, we use these microscopic analyses to draw inferences about things that occur on a megascopic scale, like the evolution of stars, the Galaxy and the Solar System - astrophysics and astrogeology in the lab! Many of the samples we analyze are too small to be seen without a microscope, and yet we are able to determine their chemical composition, isotopic composition, and physical properties such as crystal structure, often from a single, microscopic grain. We can also establish the absolute and relative ages of various kinds of early Solar System material and we study the origin and evolution of large planets in our Solar System, such as Mars and the moon.

What Instruments Do We Use?Instrumentation.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0

We use a variety of state-of-the-art instruments, some of which we have built and some of which we have adapted and modified for our own studies. Since we are usually interested in very small samples, much of our instrumentation deals with how to extract information from these. We have various kinds of mass spectrometers (for chemical and isotopic analysis and radioactive dating), electron microscopes (for chemical and structural analysis), and chemical and physical apparatus geared to the processing of microscopic material.

Who are we?People.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0

We are just people with a lot of curiosity, like you! We come from a variety of traditional educational backgrounds - from physics, chemistry and the earth sciences. Some of us are professors in these fields, others are research scientists and technicians, and some of us are graduate and undergraduate students. What unites us is a passionate interest in the space sciences. We use the combined knowledge from our individual, traditional specialties to explore more effectively the history of the early solar system.

Is there a future in this?Opportunities.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0

You bet! Our group and its graduates are among the most vigorous and distinguished practitioners in the field. Dozens of students that have worked in our laboratory (since the late sixties) are employed as professors, research scientists and staff at universities, government laboratories and industrial research laboratories. The future is especially bright. In the next decade we will have access to samples directly from Mars, from comets and from the Sun, in addition to the samples from the moon and asteroids (meteorites) that we now study. There will be a great need for young scientists who have the expertise to investigate them. You can join us….see how.