Chemistry in space; predicting the past
Dr. ir. Annemieke Petrignani
University of Amsterdam
In the cold and empty space, amazing chemistry is taking place leading to the formation of stars, planets and eventually life. Organic (photo)chemistry is occurring in between the stars with light being absorbed and emitted from places astronomically far away, reaching Earth at times when its source may not even exist anymore. This light reveals a complex interstellar chemistry of mostly unknown species, but interestingly often of organic nature. Small organic species have been discovered with radio astronomy and evidence of large organic species of aromatic hydrocarbon nature with infrared observations. Visible/uv observations have left us
with many absorption lines that yet have to be identified. In the laboratory, we study the photochemistry and the signatures of hydrocarbons using advanced gas-phase spectroscopy techniques to help predict what is happening or rather already has happened.
Annemieke Petrignani obtained her masters at the Delft University of Technology in Applied Physics. She then moved to the FOM Institute AMOLF in Amsterdam and studied ion-electron recombination reactions relevant to planetary airglow, amongst other at the ion storage ring in Stockholm. After her PhD, she moved to Germany and worked at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, where she set up a laser laboratory and studied the spectroscopy and dissociative recombination of H3+ and other small species of astrophysical interest. In 2011, she came back to the Netherlands to work for the Leiden Observatory and the FELIX Laboratory in Nijmegen, expanding her focus towards photochemical studies of large hydrocarbon species. In 2015, she became a Vidi laureate and today, she works at the University of Amsterdam with her own research team dedicated to laboratory astrochemistry and venturing on the origins of life.