The Cosmic Chemical Cauldron, Geological Society Lecture Theatre

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An RAS Public Lecture: The Cosmic Chemical CauldronDr Helen Jane Fraser (OU)(Geological Society Lecture Theatre) The Universe is full of chemicals - over 200 have been discovered, most in the vast empty space between the stars - known as the interstellar medium. These molecules are found to pervade local and distant galaxies. In fact, the formation of molecules in space is intrinsically linked with the star-formation process, affects processes of planet formation, and potentially provides the ingredients for the origins of life itself. I want to take you on a journey, from the cold, dark, diffuse regions of pre-stellar cores, right through to a newly formed exoplanet, explaining along the way what chemistry is happening, and how it contributes to what we see when we observe these regions, and what information we extract from these molecular probes and tracers of astronomical regions. Dr Helen Jane Fraser currently heads the Astrochemistry Group at the Open University. She completed her PhD at Cambridge (Jesus College) then built her career in Nottingham, Berkeley, Leiden and Strathclyde. Her current research interests focus on the role of ices, or condensed molecular material in the star- and planet- forming process. She leads research covering astronomical observations (ice-mapping), laboratory studies of ice chemistry and physics under pseudo-interstellar conditions, parabolic flights to study ice aggregation, ISIS neutron studies of ice fundamental structure and molecular dynamics simulations of water ice. She is a member of the IoP, RSC and RAS, where she also serves as a member of council, being centrally involved in the Bi-centennial outreach project Astounding Astronomy and Glorious Geophysics. She acts in an advisory capacity to UKSA on the Space Environments Working Group and Space Environments Advisory Committee. In 2014 she was was one of 50 people who appeared on the WIRED SMART list - highlighting the movers and shakers of the next 10 years in their respective fields.