School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Molecular Science and Engineering Building
The Stockton group's research centers around three related astrobiological themes: the analysis of extraterrestrial organic molecules in the search for life beyond Earth, fingerprinting life at Earth’s extremes, and exploring the origins of biomolecules and the emergence of life. A primary thrust of the first theme is the development of in situ instrumentation to go out and directly examine the organic chemical environment in the extraterrestrial environment itself through landed instruments (e.g. for Mars), fly-by instruments (e.g. for Enceladus), and impactor instruments (e.g. for Europa and small bodies). We also have a prong to look at organic molecules in extraterrestrial samples on Earth – including meteorites and interplanetary dust particles and cometary grains returned by missions like Stardust. The second theme involves field expeditions to volcanic and geothermal regions of Iceland and to the extremely acidic and saline Rio Tinto, in addition to analysis of samples obtained by colleagues from the Atacama desert and Antarctic ice shelves. In the final theme, we are working with the Center for Chemical Evolution to explore the emergence of life in warm, wet pools on the surface of the early Earth. We also explore potential laboratory models of hydrothermal vent systems mimicking those now known to be present on the icy moons of the outer solar system including Enceladus and Europa.