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NWO Open Competition Domain Science-M Grant for Jolijn Onvlee

Date of news: 29 June 2022

Jolijn OnvleeJolijn Onvlee, researcher within the Institute for Molecules and Materials (IMM) of the Radboud University, has been awarded an NWO Open Competition Domain Science-M Grant. This is a funding instrument of the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (NWO) aimed at research questions in or overlapping the fields of earth sciences, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, life sciences, physics and mathematics. Onvlee will study reactive molecular collisions in the research project entitled 'Deciphering molecular collisions: from molecular billiards to chemical reactions'. The grant includes the employment for a PhD candidate for the duration of 4 years. “I’m very excited about receiving this grant! It gives us a great opportunity to investigate chemical reactions on the molecular level in extremely high detail”, Onvlee says.

Molecular collisions

Everywhere in and around us, molecules collide and possibly react with each other. What exactly occurs in these collisions? Answering this question is of fundamental importance to chemistry, and at the same time a great challenge. In this project Onvlee will investigate reactive collisions between hydrogen molecules and carbon or sulphur atoms under highly controlled conditions to get insight in this phenomenon in detail. “We will use a world-unique experimental set-up that allows us to control the quantum state and speed of the collision partners before they react (using a Zeeman decelerator) and to afterwards capture the quantum state and speed of the collision products at extremely high resolution (using Velocity Map Imaging)”, Onvlee explains. In this project, a new powerful combination of detection techniques will be applied to increase the resolution even further. “We will be able to really unravel the dynamics of the colliding and reacting molecules, even at unexplored temperatures close to zero kelvin”, Onvlee says.

Impression of a reactive collision

Figure: Impression of a reactive collision

The experiments will provide extremely rigorous tests of the theory currently used to describe fundamental processes of paramount importance to chemistry. “If our approach succeeds, it will open new routes for investigating the effects of molecular orientation and alignment on chemical reactions, also known as stereodynamics, which is a holy grail in the field of molecular reaction dynamics.”

Spectroscopy of Cold Molecules

Jolijn Onvlee is Assistant Professor in the Spectroscopy of Cold Molecules group at Radboud University. The research group is part of IMM. She is building her own group studying reactive collisions between individual molecules and atoms in the gas phase in order to unravel the functioning of molecular interactions and chemical reactions, using state-of-the-art experimental techniques such as the Zeeman decelerator and Velocity Map Imaging. Onvlee knows the Faculty of Science very well, as she studied and finished her PhD here. After working in Germany for a postdoctoral study, she returned to the Radboud University in her new role. ”Our aim is to completely understand and, ultimately, fully control chemical reactions on the molecular level.”

NWO Open Competition Domain Science-M

NWO Open Competition Domain Science-M (ENW-M) grants are intended for curiosity-driven scientific research of high quality. The ENW-M grant offers researchers the opportunity to elaborate original, innovative, risky ideas and to realise scientific innovations that can form the basis for the research themes of the future.

More information

NWO press release: Fourteen innovative research projects launched through Open Competition Domain Science-M programme | NWO
For more information, please contact
Jolijn Onvlee: j.onvlee@science.ru.nl
IMM Communications: imm-communication@ru.nl