Dr. Christian Potiszil, got promoted to Assistant Professor increasing the faculty family of PML!


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Christian originally joined the institute as a Postdoctoral researcher concerned with the origin and evolution of organic matter over the course of the solar systems history. After completing an undergraduate and master’s degree in Geology at the University of Bristol, Christian undertook a PhD in organic geochemistry at Imperial College London. The title of the PhD thesis was “Chemical Attack on Fragments of Asteroids” and the study focused on the elucidation of CM2 carbonaceous chondrites through chemical degradation, GC-MS and FTIR and Raman spectroscopy.

Christian has joined the institute with the aim of developing both experimental and instrumental analysis techniques to further probe organic matter in the solar system. In order to achieve this aim he will study both organic matter and the relationships between mineral and organic matter phases present in extra-terrestrial bodies. These relationships are believed to have been important in determining the current organic matter present in extra-terrestrial bodies throughout our solar system.

Statement as Assistant Professor:

In my position as a newly appointed assistant professor in astrobiology, I will undertake two main investigations. Firstly, the preparation for and eventual analysis of the Hayabusa2 samples. Extraterrestrial samples containing organic matter represent a complex mixture of compounds, which must be separated effectively to enable their successful detection. Through a combination of column, liquid and gas chromatography, I hope to enable the separation and detection of individual compounds, including the building blocks of life. Additionally, I will integrate different spatial analysis techniques to elucidate mineral-organic relationships and thus allow an investigation of parent body processing conditions and potential pre-accretionary processes. The results from Ryugu samples will help to answer where the building blocks of life originated and the processes responsible for their formation.

Secondly, where the building blocks of life originated is one of the main questions of prebiotic chemistry. To answer this question, I would like to improve current experimental techniques for simulating prebiotic chemical formation environments, such as the interstellar medium and outer and inner protosolar nebular. Subsequently, I will investigate the synthesised analogues and compare these to known extraterrestrial materials and environments and then alter these precursors to simulate parent body processes. The knowledge gained from the above experiments and analyses will help to constrain the potential origin environments for the building blocks of life and enable us to understand where different organic compounds have come from and what processes were required to form them. Such knowledge can then be used to investigate what compounds should have been available on the early earth for the origin of life.