Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the University of New South Wales
How did life emerge in space? Is there life on other planets? For the first time, a technique known as spectroscopy is giving us the technological capacity to answer these questions scientifically.
Spectroscopy involves splitting light into its component wavelengths, much like a prism splits light into a rainbow. When molecules come between the source of light (such as a star) and the observer, they absorb very precise colours in that rainbow to create a ‘spectroscopic barcode’.
Dr Laura McKemmish’s research focuses on accurately predicting the barcodes of potentially interesting molecules, enabling detection of these molecules in space. Scientists can then use her data to build computational models which match their observations to understand the chemistry, physics and even biology of extra-terrestrial environments.
Laura is passionate about involving as many students as possible in the scientific research process. She coordinates the award-winning SciX high school outreach program, enabling >170 senior high school students annually to engage in scientific research with support from PhD students.
Dr Laura McKemmish was awarded her PhD from the Australian National University in 2015 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the University of New South Wales