Sandra Brünken new fellow in Christine Mohrmann programme
Molecular astrophysics is the expertises of the new fellow in the Mohrmann programma, initiated to attract talented young women to Radboud University’s Faculty of Science. Sandra Brünken will join the FELIX Laboratory.
Physicist Sandra Brünken works on the intersection of physical chemistry and astrophysics. "In short, I develop and use methods to study molecules in the gas phase, in order to learn more about chemical processes happening in space for example during star formation", she explains. Most of the chemistry in space is done by ions – atoms or molecules with a positive or negative charge. To study the structural and functional properties of ions, Brünken recreates the harsh environments of space in her lab with state-of-the-art techniques like ion traps. "In an ion trap, we can store ions for multiple seconds, and cool them down to 4 Kelvin or -269 degrees Celsius, just like in space. Then, we investigate them with infrared or Terahertz light to obtain their spectral fingerprints." This fingerprint provides information on the ion’s 3D structure and functional properties. That information can be used to study the formation of complex molecules from single atoms; a process that also happens in space, in giant molecular clouds that are the birthplaces of stars.
The Faculty of Science of Radboud University initiated the Christine Mohrmann Fellowship programme to attract and promote talented young women with outstanding potential in the natural sciences. The fellowships comprises a tenure track in which the fellow starts as an Assistant Professor (UD) in a temporary position with the prospect of a permanent appointment within six years, and supported by an additional PhD student. Depending on her performance, the Fellow will then be appointed at the Associate (UHD) or Full Professor level.