PhD opportunity, School of Chemistry, University of Leeds
The kinetics of astrochemical and planetary reactions studied at very low temperatures
We advertise a PhD opportunity (funded by STFC) in Astrochemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds.
Neutral – neutral reactions are important in low temperature environments such as the interstellar medium (ISM), dense molecular clouds of star forming regions and planetary atmospheres. However, the chemical databases used to model such environments contain a relatively small number of this class of reaction and the low-temperature chemistry is poorly understood. We have recently shown [1-4] that despite the presence of an energy barrier, the reaction between the OH radical and ketones, alcohols and ethers can proceed to products rapidly at very low temperatures, which we interpret via a mechanism involving the formation of a weak hydrogen bonded association adduct, and quantum mechanical tunnelling. We propose that this behaviour may be widespread under the low temperature conditions found in space.
The successful candidate will measure rate constants and product branching ratios at very low temperatures using laser flash-photolysis combined with a variety of laser-based spectroscopic detection methods. They will use a pulsed Laval nozzle apparatus to study the kinetics of reactions between ~40 and 150 K representative of the atmospheres of other planets and moons, for example Titan, as well as in star-forming regions, stellar outflows and the interstellar medium. Large molecular clouds of acetone, methanol and ethanol have been observed in space, and the large rate constants can be rationalised by the formation of a hydrogen-bonded complex, which can either be stabilised or undergo quantum mechanical tunnelling through the activation barrier to form products.
The successful candidate will interpret the laboratory measurements using theoretical methods, making use of ab initio potential energy surfaces and master equation calculations (using the MESMER program, developed in Leeds) to calculate rate constants as a function of temperature and pressure. These experiments use laser flash-photolysis combined with laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy, and will be extended to study further reactions of OH, 1CH2, C2H, NH2 and other radicals, and will monitor both reactants and products, using LIF.
The PhD will provide a broad spectrum of training in the use of high power lasers, vacuum systems, optics, computer controlled data acquisition systems and numerical calculations. The successful candidate will work in a well equipped laboratory and be part of the active, thriving and well-funded Atmospheric and Planetary Chemistry group within the School of Chemistry. You will be supported to attend both national and international conferences, and will receive a wide range of training, for example in communication skills and other technical aspects.
For further information please contact Professor Dwayne Heard: D.E.Heard@leeds.ac.uk
 R. J. Shannon, M. A. Blitz, A. Goddard & D. E. Heard, Nature Chemistry, 5, 745-749, 2013
 R. J. Shannon, S. Taylor, A. Goddard, M. A. Blitz & D. E. Heard, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2010, 12, 13511–13514
 R.J. Shannon, R. L. Caravan, M.A. Blitz & D.E. Heard, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 16, 3466, 2014
 R.L. Caravan, R. J. Shannon, T. Lewis, M. A. Blitz & D. E. Heard, J. Phys. Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jp505790m, 2014.
Chemical Processes in Solar-Type Star Forming Regions
jointly organized by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Torino and INAF Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri in the context of the EU H2020 ITN project AstroChemical Origins (ACO).
The meeting will consist of invited reviews, invited and contributed talks, and posters. Support for PhD and young students is also planned.
Conference site: Department of Chemistry, University of Torino, Italy
Conference dates: 13th – 17th September 2021
Registration deadline: 20th May 2021
Abstract submission deadline: 1st May 2021
The announcement of the conference is available on the web at:
How the chemical complexity evolves during the process leading to the formation of a Sun and its planetary system? Is the chemical richness of a Solar-like planetary system, at least partially, inherited from the earliest stages or is there a complete chemical reset? A powerful way to answering these questions is by comparing the chemical content in young protostars and primitive bodies of the Solar System, using astrochemistry as a tool. Yet, to do so, we need to fully understand the processes that govern the chemical evolution of a molecular cloud into a young planetary system.
The goal of the conference is to gather together the actors of this intrinsically interdisciplinary endeavor: astronomers, chemists and modelers. The recent huge progresses in the three areas make the time ripe for these communities to join and ride this scientific wave.
We invite all of you to join the Conference.
The Scientific Organizing Committee
P. Ugliengo, C. Codella, A. Barucci, C. Ceccarelli,
L. Piccirillo, A. Rimola, C. Vastel, S. Viti, S. Yamamoto