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  • Home - Douglas Whittet
    90 Education Ph D Astronomy University of St Andrews 1975 B Sc Physics Hons University of St Andrews 1970 Research Interests The astrochemistry of the interstellar medium especially with regard to the origin of organic molecules and water in protoplanetary disks around newly born stars and the relationship between interstellar matter and protoplanetary material in our own and other solar systems The optical properties of interstellar dust grains especially with

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  • Biography - Douglas Whittet
    Kapteyn Astronomical Institute University of Groningen 1988 89 Visiting Professor Physics Department York University Toronto and Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics University of Toronto Professional Activities and Awards Director New York Center for Astrobiology since 2008 Principal Investigator NASA Astrobiology Institute since 2008 Council of Institutions representative Universities Space Research Association since 2008 Principal Investigator NASA Exobiology Evolutionary Biology research program since 1998 Principal Investigator Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy observing program 2012 15 Principal Investigator Spitzer Space Telescope funded research programs 2004 11 Co organizer NASA Astrobiology Institute Workshop Without Walls The Organic Continuum from the Interstellar Medium to the Early Solar System 2010 Member Scientific Organizing Committee Symposium Astronomical Polarimetry 2008 2006 08 Member Scientific Organizing Committee Symposium The Astrophysics of Dust 2002 03 Rensselaer Alumni Association Teacher of the Year award winner 2002 Associate Director New York Center for Studies of the Origins of Life 1998 2006 Member of Editorial Board Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 1997 2014 Guest Investigator European Space Agency Infrared Space Observatory Guaranteed Time 1990 97 Principal Investigator NASA Long Term Space Astrophysics Program 1992 97 Chair Scientific Organizing Committee Symposium Polarimetry of the Interstellar Medium 1995 Professional Affiliations Fellow

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  • Research - Douglas Whittet
    not only what molecules are present but also to explore their evolution We find for example subtle difference in the spectral features observed in a cold interstellar cloud compared with a warm protoplanetary disk surrounding a newly formed star The data are used to constrain theoretical models of the physics and chemistry of the clouds and disks allowing us to identify key chemical pathways and determine organic inventories at different stages of evolution Analogs of the young Sun are studied in a variety of star forming environments enabling us to compare possible scenarios for the birth of our own solar system and to examine the range of initial conditions that might give rise to habitable planets elsewhere Our research also leads to important comparisons between interstellar processes and the remnants of planet formation the comets asteroids and meteorites in our solar system Interplanetary materials that fall to Earth are known to contain key biomolecules such as amino acids and sugars and our research will shed light on how they are formed and what significance they may have for the origin of terrestrial life This research is being carried out in collaboration with groups at the SETI Institute the SOFIA Science Center the University of Missouri at St Louis the University of Virginia and the University of Helsinki The Physics of Interstellar Dust studied by Polarimetry Lead investigator Doug Whittet RPI The radiation from stars observed through interstellar matter in our Galaxy is typically partially plane polarized as the result of linear dichroism angle dependent extinction caused by aligned anisotropic dust grains in the intervening medium The spectral dependence of interstellar polarization has long been recognized as an important tool for studying grain physics placing useful constraints on the optical properties of the aligned grains and on the nature of the

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  • Advisees - Douglas Whittet
    co terminal BS MS program Former Graduate and Postdoctoral Advisees Andy Adamson Varun Bajaj Michael Buschermöhle Jean Chiar Amanda Cook John Davies Perry Gerakines Erika Gibb Emily Hardegree Ullman Lida He David Horne Kristen Larson Paul Mayeur Albert Nummelin Patrick Oates Charles Poteet Drew Rosen Sachindev Shenoy Nicolle Zellner Former Undergraduate Advisees very incomplete Marshall Aiken Varun Bajaj Zachary Bross Elizabeth Frank Dawn Leeber Gelino Cale Kochenour Steven Lentine Hannah

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  • Publications - Douglas Whittet
    Courses Links News Subscribe Publications Review paper Observations of the Icy Universe link to e print Recent publications are listed below click here for complete list View RSS feed Pages Home Biography Research Advisees Publications Courses Links News Copyright 2014

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  • Courses - Douglas Whittet
    and galaxies are explained The course also discusses what can be learned about the Earth and other planets in our Solar System by studying data from orbiting satellites and space probes The nature and origin of our Solar System is reviewed and placed in context by comparison with the latest observations of planetary systems orbiting other stars Finally the question of how the Earth came to be a host for life and methods for detecting life elsewhere in our Solar System and beyond are discussed The course is suitable for non physics and non science majors as well as those committed to specialization in Astronomy Evening laboratory sessions are included Fall term annually 4 credit hours Origin of Life A Cosmic Perspective To understand the origin of life is a fundamental goal of science This multidisciplinary course discusses the events and processes that led to the Earth becoming a habitable world covering topics in physics astronomy earth sciences chemistry and biology Evidence is discussed for the presence of prebiotic molecules in the interstellar clouds from which new planetary systems are born Cosmic and terrestrial sources of such molecules on the primitive Earth are compared to investigate whether they may have

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  • Links - Douglas Whittet
    Association NASA Astrobiology Institute New York Center for Astrobiology Rensselaer Astrophysics Research Rensselaer Hirsch Observatory Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Royal Astronomical Society The Sky at Night Universities Space Research Association WAMC The Best of Our Knowledge MUSIC Albany S ymphony Orchestra Dust of Hue Sibelius Music Life Musings Hilary Hahn International Sibelius One Society Lahti Symphony Orchestra Sibelius Society of Finland Sibelius Museum Sibelius and the World of Art FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY

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  • News - Douglas Whittet
    System environments A tremendous amount of information is contained in the ice band profiles Laboratory experiments play a critical role in the analysis of the observations Strong evidence is found for distinct ice formation stages separated by CO freeze out at high densities The ice bands have proven to be excellent probes of the thermal history of their environment The evidence for the long held idea that processing of ices by energetic photons and cosmic rays produces complex molecules is weak Recent state of the art observations show promise for much progress in this area with planned infrared facilities Interstellar Dust Grain Alignment by B G Andersson Alex Lazarian and John Vaillancourt Abstract Interstellar polarization at optical to infrared wavelengths is known to arise from asymmetric dust grains aligned with the magnetic field This effect provides a potentially powerful probe of magnetic field structure and strength if the details of the grain alignment can be reliably understood Theory and observations have recently converged on a quantitative predictive description of interstellar grain alignment based on radiative processes The development of a general analytical model for this radiative alignment torque RAT theory has allowed specific testable predictions for realistic interstellar conditions We outline the theoretical and observational arguments in favor of RAT alignment as well as reasons the classical paramagnetic alignment mechanism is unlikely to work except possibly for the very smallest grains With further detailed characterization of the RAT mechanism grain alignment and polarimetry promise to not only better constrain the interstellar magnetic field but also provide new information on the dust characteristics RPI Physics junior receives the James B Willet Scholarship Award for research in Astrophysics September 25 2014 by Doug Whittet in News Rensselaer junior and Physics major Emily Wislowski has been selected by the Universities Space Research Association as the recipient of the 2014 James B Willett Educational Memorial Scholarship Award Wislowski was selected from a large number of applicants in a very competitive selection She received the award today following an RPI Astrophysics Seminar talk on her research on organic molecules in sites of stellar birth The award was presented by Emily s research adviser Doug Whittet The award honors the late James B Willet 1940 1998 a noted NASA astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who also served as the manager of the Galileo mission to Jupiter FameLab Exploring Earth and Beyond event at Rensselaer July 29 2014 by Doug Whittet in News The School of Science at RPI in collaboration with the 2014 Astrobiology Graduate Conference AbGradCon hosted the kickoff to Season 3 of the science communications event FameLab Exploring Earth and Beyond on July 29 Graduate students from around the country gathered to learn how to communicate their scientific research in a way that still includes the technical aspects while making it relatable to a general audience As part of the process participants developed a three minute Powerpoint free presentation of their chosen topic A preliminary round was held in the morning with a

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