Dr Alexander Dickson (Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London)
Dr Ashley King (Natural History Museum)
The effects of thermal alteration on the structure, concentration and chemistry of organic matter have been studied in both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial material. This study aims at providing a quantitative account of the impact of these processes in order to determine the primordial composition of the rocks, and to properly address the nature of the precursor material of their organics and volatiles. This study offers crucial insights into the ongoing sample-return space missions, Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, as they sample heated asteroids, while the supervisors (Chan, King) are on the sample analysis teams.
The successful candidate will conduct heating experiments, and observe how the mineralogy and organic content of meteorites and organic-rich mudrocks change when subjected to heating. Data of the mineralogy, chemical, isotopic and organic compositions of the samples will be acquired by techniques such as X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), infrared, Raman spectroscopy, nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS), and X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) at Diamond Light Source.
The successful candidate will be primarily located at Royal Holloway, and also be hosted at the Natural History Museum for a minimum period of 3 months during the project, where the candidate will have access to world-leading meteorite and mineral collections and state-of-the-art analytical facilities. In addition to the mandatory cohort training events organised by DTP, the successful candidate will be given training for transferrable skills such as wet chemical and clean lab techniques, mineral identification, spectroscopic data interpretation, and the analytical methods necessary for the implementation of this project at RHUL and NHM. Academics at Tohoku University will also provide training for the successful candidate on the experimental heating procedures.
We are looking for a candidate with interest in laboratory analysis, and with a passion in organic geochemistry and meteoritics. You should have a background/degree in Geology/Chemistry (or equivalent), preferably with knowledge of mineralogy and geochemistry. Laboratory experiences and some knowledge of meteorites is desirable but not essential. You should be able to travel to Japan to conduct the heating experiments at Tohoku University.