At Harvard University, I’ve been able to expand on my graduate experiences in Precambrian paleontology as a member of Andy Knoll‘s group. I’ve continued my research into the nature of early eukaryotes by using FE-SEM and TEM methods to characterize the wall structure of a variety of Proterozoic microfossils using instrumentation at the Center for Nanoscale Systems. I’ve also been collaborating with Ken Williford at JPL to attempt the first measurements of taxon-specific stable isotope values for early Mesoproterozoic fossils. Taken together, these different datasets may one day enable us to characterize the metabolic strategy (and, hopefully, the taxonomic affinity) of these different taxa. I’ve also helped to look for new microfossils in the 1.1Ga Allamore Formation of Texas and new outcrops from the Neoproterozoic Svanbergfjellet Formation from Spitsbergen in collaboration with Kristin Bergmann.
On the prebiotic side of things, I’m actively involved with the Origins of Life Initiative, where I focus on exploring new geochemically driven pathways of organic and phosphorus compound synthesis. Most of this work involves radiolysis- the process of using alpha, beta or gamma radiation to break down reactant molecules and reform them into more complex products. Laboratory experiments rely upon the Cobalt 60 Gamma Radiation Facility at the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Recently, this has led me to focus on the production of water-alternative solvents in near-surface microenvironments.