René’s Research


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My research focuses on the physics and chemistry of the Interstellar Medium, particularly as it relates to star and planet formation.

Modern astronomy involves more than most people realize. While the use of physics to understand the origins of galaxies, stars and planets is still fundamental, we have begun to realize that chemistry and even biology play important roles in understanding the universe. The dynamical and physical evolution of a nebulous cloud of interstellar gas on its way to becoming a star and planetary system is also accompanied by an evolution of chemical species which play an important role in regulating this process. In addition, the recent detection of complex molecules in the interstellar medium points to the possibility that the chemicals important to life, and even life itself, might have originated deep in interstellar space.

My research takes me to radio telescopes around the world (CSO, IRAM, JCMT, ALMA, CARMA etc.) and also includes the use of data from space-based telescopes (SWAS, ODIN, Spitzer, The Herschel Space Observatory etc.).  I am also involved in the development of a new 25m submillimeter wave telescope (CCAT) and one of its associated first generation instruments (CHAI) . In addition to collecting data, the use and development of sophisticated theoretical tools are key to interpreting and understanding the data. Therefore, these are also key parts of my research.

About My Research

(Top) Picture of the SWAS satellite just prior to being enclosed in the Pegasus rocket for launch. (Bottom) The 100m diameter Robert C. Byrd telescope at NRAO’s Green Bank Observatory.  (Right) Picture of the ALMA array in Chile.