R2I at CCI: University of Virginia

CCI Phase I: Center for Chemistry of the Universe

This Phase I CCI will place chemistry at the center of research efforts to describe the molecular composition of the universe. The Center for Chemistry of the Universe will assemble a multi-institutional, multidisciplinary group of researchers to investigate and understand chemical processes in the interstellar medium. The chemistry occurring under the unique conditions of the interstellar medium produces the initial molecular starting materials for solar system formation. This chemistry, which produces a surprisingly rich set of common organic molecules along with more exotic reactive species, also supplies the molecules in meteorites and comets that may deliver the building blocks of life to young planets. Understanding this chemistry will require the development of high-speed broadband mm-wave spectrophotometers for chemical identification as well as new methods to probe chemical reactivity in cold gases and on surfaces.

The Center will establish connections between fields such as combustion chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, and materials processing that share the theme of "chemistry under extreme conditions." The Center will provide a team-oriented, collaborative and multidisciplinary research environment for graduate student and postdoctoral researchers. Synergistic center activities capitalize on the broad appeal of the space sciences and include a summer undergraduate research program, a university-level general science course, new web materials for the general public and display materials for out-of-school time programs in science centers and museums.