Astrochemistry @ Illinois

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Midwest Astrochemistry Consortium
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University of IL at Urbana Champaign

Contact Ben McCall.

Astrochemistry is a broad and interdisciplinary emerging field at the intersection of the traditional disciplines of chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Broadly speaking, astrochemistry can be defined as the study of molecules in the universe. Molecules play important roles in a wide variety of astrophysical environments and also serve as unique probes to study these environments. From the early universe, to the interstellar medium in our galaxy, to the atmospheres of stars, planets, and comets, chemistry is not a curiosity but a driving force.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an emerging leader in this young field. Astrochemical research is being conducted in both the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Astronomy. Both a lecture course (ASTR/CHEM 450) and a laboratory course (ASTR/CHEM 451) offer advanced undergraduate students and graduate students a formal introduction to the subject. Undergraduate students can choose to pursue a double major (or double degree) in both chemistry and astronomy, and PhD students in either chemistry or astronomy can pursue a graduate concentration in astrochemistry. Additionally, the two departments sponsored a joint seminar series in Astrochemistry, with financial support from the National Science Foundation.

Nationally and internationally, the field of astrochemistry is gaining increased prominence. This is evidenced by the growing number of scientific conferences and sessions devoted to this area, including annual sessions at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy, special sessions at recent meetings of the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, and the American Astronomical Society, and regular meetings of the the International Astronomical Union.

The large number of groups performing astrochemical research across the midwestern United States has recently led to the formation of the Midwest Astrochemistry Consortium, which holds annual meetings in Urbana.